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Two days' hard geeking

Post #1185 • May 29, 2008, 6:10 PM • 395 Comments

Go See Art is now broadcasting live from Webfaction, running off of a PostgreSQL backend using Python. If you don't know what that means, just take my word for it that I have voodoo powers. I got more mojo than Jerry Saltz.

And now, a ton of updating. Followed by more code.

Comment

1.

swimmer

May 30, 2008, 3:30 AM

the measure of ones own mojo is unbecoming!

2.

Eric

May 30, 2008, 5:06 AM

Did you know that Mr. Mojo Risin' is an anagram for Jim Morrison? I didn't think so.

3.

MC

May 30, 2008, 6:01 AM

Sure, Eric, but can you give us an anagram for Jerry Saltz?

4.

opie

May 30, 2008, 6:13 AM

And there is no anagram for Jerry Saltz. He seems to have become a kind of entertainment ringmaster. His use of the word "mojo" and other quaint 60s terms is painful. In fact, he is altogether painful to read.

Looking at those LA artists is instructive. A lot of it is abstract or semi abstract with a dose of the current fad for semi-surrealist cutesy. The odor of grad school hangs heavy. I would almost call it a period style (I don't think the lot would look much different in NY) which is oddly very diverse on the surface and hard to describe succinctly. One of the characteristics I did notice is that none of them had much facility with color, but this is common everywhere, at all times.

5.

opie

May 30, 2008, 6:24 AM

Another realization, looking at these artists, is how hard it is to make a good "minimal", or even simplified picture. Most of these paintings are way overloaded. The few younger atists doing minimal or "semiminimal" seem to have done it by short cut, that is, just went simple. This does not seem to work.

Good minimal work reflects a great density of judgement. Thet trash can next to you has to be very full and filled with difficult choices.

6.

roy

May 30, 2008, 6:52 AM

opie #4

re : 'semi-surrealist cutesy'...I think we are now enjoying the later stages of the fruition of the 'illustration' wave that hit a few years back and saw its first champion and darling in Marcel Dzama (a Canadian BTW). It annoyed me then and gets me even more now that so many have embraced it seriously in an attempt to tweak it into something worthwhile.

As for hard to describe (this aspect anyway)...I could see it coming well before Dzama was the artforum cover (many of the hip kids had been sifting through vintage and off the grid illustration for ideas) and I was trying to point it out to a few comrades, which didn't really go over well, and then within a few months Dzama was crowned Prince for a spell and a legion of imitators did follow.

7.

roy

May 30, 2008, 7:06 AM

opie, or anybody...is there a date to be had for the Neil Marshall essay? I am enjoying it very much but I'm not sure which paintings he refers to later in the piece...he talks about recent work and work done last year etc. but I'm not sure which periods he refers to.

8.

ahab

May 30, 2008, 7:27 AM

Franklin, how do other cities get themselves served by goseeart?

9.

george

May 30, 2008, 7:49 AM

so far, the new modernism artists list looks provincial.

10.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 7:49 AM

Swimmer, I was just kidding. Nobody has more mojo than Jerry Saltz.

Saltz did not used to be painful to read, but over the last couple of years he has confused the hell out of himself. I keep hoping he'll snap out of it.

There has been major illustrationizing going on in fine art in recent years and I would blame Dzama, Elizabeth Peyton, and Murakami alternately depending on whether we're talking about existentially shaky drawing, wan figuration, or cutesy imagery. It jumps out at me because I follow illustration and comics, which are doing all of these and more, oftentimes better. Too, LA is the center for what people call Pop Surrealism (see Mark Ryden, et al.) which is a frankly illustrative movement.

Roy, other cities will get served by Go See Art but I have to get LA and NYC together first.

11.

opie

May 30, 2008, 8:12 AM

Roy:

Marshall, Neil. “The Paintings of Jules Olitski”, essay for the catalouge Jules Olitski New Paintings, Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, Mar 18-Apr 5, 1978 pp 4-15


George:

And yours looks abjectly trendy. So what do we do now?

12.

MC

May 30, 2008, 8:14 AM

Wise, Franklin. Wouldn't want to look 'provincial'...

13.

MC

May 30, 2008, 8:17 AM

Not many people know that Olitski, aside from being a masterful artist, was a Winter Olympic silver medalist in the double-hulled luge (or "catalouge", as it is known) competition...

14.

Eric

May 30, 2008, 8:38 AM

Only Canucks know that MC.

15.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 8:55 AM

OP, the answer to your question in #11 is quite obvious:

Ignore those who are not worth notice.

16.

opie

May 30, 2008, 9:10 AM

I know, Jack. I just like to argue.

17.

opie

May 30, 2008, 9:12 AM

Why dId you make me look at Ryden? Sadist!

18.

Eric

May 30, 2008, 9:30 AM

If Ryden represents the future of painting call me a sculptor from now on.

19.

opie

May 30, 2008, 9:32 AM

If he represents the future of painting call me a fugitive from civilization.

20.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 9:50 AM

I was kind of waiting for one of you to pounce on my choice of Harness as too illustration-ey. Is this something that you guys have talked about elsewhere-- as in, explained your beef?

Re: Tony Baker, MC, it's not that I don't like his more abstract work too, but it's the narrative aspect of his recent paintings that constitute a lot of his development as an artist for me. "Fiery the Angels Fell" is one of my favorite pieces that he's done in the last couple of years:

http://www.thefrontgallery.com/artist.php?artist=baker&fullname=Tony%20Baker

21.

george

May 30, 2008, 9:52 AM

re [11]
Trendy? The first group were living painters I think are important and influential over the last thirty years and will continue to be so. The second group was a broader choice of painters whose work I have actually seen and felt was convincing as painting. The paintings are better. trendy? maybe because they were in NYC galleries but isn't that what New Modernism is trying to accomplish, to get the work accepted?

22.

opie

May 30, 2008, 10:03 AM

"Important" and "influential" are entirely consistent with "trendy", George

23.

opie

May 30, 2008, 10:04 AM

I really can't understand what you guys see in Tony Baker. The paintings look really weak.

24.

george

May 30, 2008, 10:05 AM

opie, I don't deny that my list of painters could be considered trendy.

They got that way by being better than a lot of other painters, go figure.

25.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 10:09 AM

Baker vaguely reminds me of Dufy. Decent color, fairly easy on the eye, but ultimately lightweight.

26.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 10:17 AM

And by the way, OP, I'm sure Britney Spears thinks that Ryden thing is to die for. I expect Michael Jackson loves it, too. So there.

27.

MC

May 30, 2008, 10:23 AM

Opie, Tony Baker and I went to school together. Over time, he's developed his own science fiction universe, which has generally taken over his painting and drawing. These are the features that Clem likes, of course, but which I conversly think hurt the work. That said, I like "The Expanse" (Tony's intergalactic Middle Earth) enough to suggest to Baker that he develop those narrative aspects more fully, outside of the gallery, in contexts that work with, rather than against, the subject matter. I think he should develop a role-playing game with his ideas, or a graphic novel, since that's actually the medium that geekery like his works best in.

Although I do think Tony's very talented, I don't actually think he would be accurately described as a New Modernist painter, because for now at least, he's unwilling to dump these 'narrative' aspects to the betterment of his painting.

On the other hand, he could turn into a New Modernist Role Playing Game Guru, or Graphic novelist (and besides, doesn't either occupation trump "artist" for 21st c. coolness? He could probably make a nice living as a game designer, instead of starving as a "fine artist").

28.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 10:24 AM

Speaking of lightweight, did I miss you contribution Jack, or have you not put forward your own picks?

29.

MC

May 30, 2008, 10:32 AM

Tony Baker recently had a show in Edmonton, where all the artworks were titled with short captions, and numbers. The numbers would lead you, choose-your-own-adventure-style, from image to image, through the show.

Or, that was the idea, at least. In reality, you saw the show, all the images, in its entirely when you walked into the room, so the opportunity for impact of what could have been an interesting idea was somewhat lost.

I thought that the idea might have worked better as a kind of "web-comic" (I think that's what the kids are calling them), where you'd see one full-screen image at a time, and click forward to the next panel that way.

So, Tony, if you're out there reading (with ears burning), maybe give that a try...

30.

roy

May 30, 2008, 10:33 AM

Thanks for the dates on the essay, opie.

re: Heavyweights and Lightweights...

I recently received a set of catalogues of Olitski's work from, as i can understand it anyway, four concurrent international commercial shows in 1990 with work ranging from 1958 - 1990, plus a volume with an essay and a priceless interview which opens with Olitski describing the overcoming of his popcorn addiction! Ha!! Anyway, there are easily 150 good plates total showing his full range up to 1990. It arrived a month or so ago and I've had the doors blown off my barn. I've seen a handful of late seventies pics in the flesh and I adore his early stains (which I thought I had seen the basic range of until now). I've done my best homework finding as many repros as I can but there does seem like a swath of repeated images - the Moffett book (1981?)seems to have them all for the most part. Olitski has never failed to impress me, but I guess I kinda held out a bit based on how much I had actually seen, which is pretty close value stuff and mostly subtler colour. But in these catalogues there are a lot of early 60's - 70's and late 80's examples that I hadn't seen in quantity before. What a flippin' painter! Allow me to slip into some urban colloquial..we are talking serious Mac Daddy folks.

Long story short...I finally see (by repro anyway) why he is revered so deeply by so many. There is also two or three interesting oddball pics shown here from about '87 - on plexi - that prefigure the character of the late work explicitly. There is a Greenberg text used as a little intro for one of the volumes that basically says if any serious abstract painter is good enough will find themselves 'running into Olitski - even if he or she is not well aquainted with him'(1989). I've come across this text before and not felt like it was qualified yet in my own experience (I knew there is a lot of work and directions I hadn't seen) but now I see what he meant. I only wish I get the opportunity to see a bunch more of his best work in person someday.

On top of it all, Olitski seems a very humble, funny guy. Go figure.

31.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 10:35 AM

"That said, I like "The Expanse" (Tony's intergalactic Middle Earth) enough to suggest to Baker that he develop those narrative aspects more fully, outside of the gallery, in contexts that work with, rather than against, the subject matter. I think he should develop a role-playing game with his ideas, or a graphic novel, since that's actually the medium that geekery like his works best in"

I dunno MC, when I read your suggestions I just think "Why would he?". I realize that we probably don't want to jump back down this road, but why can't narrative have a place in the gallery? Or maybe more specifically, why do you think that it hurts his work.

Opie, I'm more than willing to admit that Baker's geography/community probably has a lot to do with our appreciation of his work. But as always, I tend to think that this generally impacts how people see people's work. The frequent reference to fellow-posters and other moments of back-slapping in these past couple of threads seem to show this reality pretty clearly : )

32.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 10:39 AM

George, you missed Opie's point - your statement that "so far, the new modernism artists list looks provincial" is useless. That was my second thought, actually, following this one: that while several people offered their list of favorite artists, just about everyone included non-modernist choices by their own admission, so I don't know what "the new modernism artists list" looks like. You don't either, of course; you just don't realize it. Not that that has stopped you from commenting on it negatively.

33.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 10:39 AM

MC, that last bit wasn't posted when I replied. But further examples (in individual works) would be appreciated!

34.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 10:43 AM

Sorry for the multiple posts...

Franklin,

I'm still interested in your reference to appropriate "boundary crossing" in mediums / artistic forms. Your appreciation of comics somewhat surprised me at first, but I'm still interested as to if and why you might demarcate the form from the category of visual art.

35.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 10:43 AM

And there we have it. I looked at Tony Baker don't see anything more interesting than what you can find by Bill Sienkiewicz.

36.

george

May 30, 2008, 10:45 AM

...you don't either, of course; of course.

I was hoping that in a general sense, the lists would indicate somewhat the direction New Modernism is taking. I certainly didn't expect my list of artists to fit in with what everyone else chooses.

So we still don't have much besides a name, how about a slogan? slogans are good.

37.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 11:02 AM

The old joke used to say that modernism was whatever Greenberg liked. We'll say that new modernism is whatever George doesn't like.

38.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 11:05 AM

Speaking of Mark Ryden... I also find his work painful to look at, but I wouldn't have called it Pop Surrealism (although that's not a bad term for it) so much as part of the Juxtapoz Movement. You know, a mixture of glib illustration, Japanese kawaii, and Tobe Hooper gore. Kind of like Robert Williams on crank.

I take it as a measure of my growth as a person that once upon a time I would've liked this kind of thing very much, but now I find it shallow and easy, like a male-to-female transsexual with a couple of operations left to go.

I do like Eric White, though. Years and years ago now -- about a decade, I guess -- I was working pretty steadily and had money to spend, so I went looking for prints I could afford. Originally I got the idea when I saw some Jett Jackson prints in an Upper East Side gallery near Citibank where I was working, but I couldn't afford hers, so I ended up finding Eric White's work online. I bought a print of Our Beloved Ganesa and Eric nicely added a print of Czechsicle to my order. I met him at one of his openings a few years later. Nice guy.

I don't know if I'd buy any of these paintings now, but they still have a warm spot in my heart.

39.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 11:07 AM

Re #28:

See #15.

40.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 11:07 AM

Eric White and I graduated in the same class at RISD. Super nice guy, very talented draughtsman.

41.

MC

May 30, 2008, 11:09 AM

Hey! I've got a copy of Bill Sienkiewicz' Jimi Hendrix 'Voodoo Child'... it came with a great basement-recording CD of the legend himself, (p)laying down tracks while the ooe rigns in the background... it's great.

42.

george

May 30, 2008, 11:10 AM

I'm flattered but it leaves you with all the junk wall decoration, have fun.

43.

MC

May 30, 2008, 11:10 AM

Hmmm... I'm losing the pee key as well.
That was supposed to say "phone rings...".

44.

MC

May 30, 2008, 11:12 AM

Needless to say, I'm very offended by that Ganesa print...

45.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 11:12 AM

The one time I saw Olitski's work in person I was deeply uninterested. I can't say from what period the paintings
came -- I think I saw the show before I was writing reviews.

46.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 11:18 AM

Franklin sez:
Eric White and I graduated in the same class at RISD. Super nice guy, very talented draughtsman.

Speaking of damning with faint praise....

MC, I showed my print to a Hindu guy I was working with and he was really offended. "Ganesa is supposed to be beautiful!" he sobbed. Also, I suspect the vulva painted on Ganesa's headdress didn't go over too well. That's pretty much why I bought it, though. Vulvas rule!

47.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 11:22 AM

Thanks George! Have fun slavering over your inanities.

Clem, there are not clear demarcations between visual art and comics, likewise between art and illustration, or comics and illustration. And yet comics have some narrative devices available to it that exist within illustration and fine art to a lesser degree. That's about as much as you need to separate them - the rest is just getting the work made.

Scott McCloud refers to himself as a comics formalist, by the way.

48.

opie

May 30, 2008, 11:24 AM

I'll take decoration to desecration any day, George.

MC & Clem the cartoon things are fine; that's where he seems in his element. He certainly has talent & ability but he doesn't seem to have made the effort to figure out how to put a painting together.

The site Clem provided had pictures that had plenty evidence of a person who knew how to work with paint (unlike many of the LA painters I looked at above) but were thoughtlessly disregarding the pressures of the "one-shot" form that painting is. That one with all the repeated houses (as I recall it) for example - the forms just go on and on as if he simply felt that he had to finish the dame thing. It didn't look as if his heart was in it.

49.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 11:26 AM

Speaking of damning with faint praise....

I didn't mean it that way. I respect Pop Surrealism within the limits of what it's trying to do. It's enjoyable in the way that Pop can be enjoyable, and crafted with a lot of care. As long as you don't mix it up with great art there's nothing wrong with it, and typically the people involved with this stuff don't mix it up with great art. Some proponents refer to it as Lowbrow exactly for that reason.

50.

opie

May 30, 2008, 11:34 AM

BTW some of the realists in thet Front Gallery site that Clem linked to aren't bad.

51.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 1:01 PM

Franklin sez:
I didn't mean it that way.

I wasn't sure you did, but it kind of sounded like "Nice guy. Really can draw. His paintings suck, though." So I figured I'd open it up for clarification.

The thing that impresses me most about his paintings are the ones he's done in negative colors. If you pull them into Photoshop and invert them, they're correct. He assured me once that he didn't do the reverse to get the colors, he just worked it out somehow.

I understand that inverting colors is maybe not the most impressive trick in any painter's arsenal, but it impresses me. Then again, my son blows my mind with card tricks he learns off of YouTube, so maybe I'm just a rube.

52.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 1:49 PM

Marc, I had the same reaction to that G----a print. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to make it any harder on you. Chris, of course, should never have linked that image, but he's obviously nowhere near as multiculturally correct as we are.

53.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 1:54 PM

I try to be equally rude to all cultures.

54.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 2:32 PM

Oh, and Chris, the v---a comment is far too gynecological for comfort. It is definitely not the way to get back in poor Oriane's good graces.

55.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 2:41 PM

In response to #30, can somebody link Olitski's barley soup piece? I actually heard him give a talk once, at the opening of a show he had here in Florida late in his career, and he was definitely a charmer.

56.

John

May 30, 2008, 2:48 PM

BARLEY SOUP

57.

roy

May 30, 2008, 4:34 PM

Ya, that Barley Soup is good too. I'll have to reread that when i get home. There was a DVD interview (ca. 2003 or '04 i think) included in a 'late work' catalogue I was blabbing about on another thread that is really good too. He rambles on and on for each question then somehow steers it back once you've assumed he's forgotten about it the initial query. He does it over and over with so much grace. The salient thing about it for me was a genuine sense of thankfulness and enthusiasm for life and art and the people (in his estimation) who really make it happen.

58.

Eric

May 30, 2008, 4:35 PM

"We'll say that new modernism is whatever George doesn't like."

I will accept my rejection with honor and dignity. Best of luck guys.

59.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 4:40 PM

I always chuckle when the Lascaux or other historical artifacts are characterized as "art of quality, high art", essentially making them part of some vaguely defined tradition of excellence. I think they have much more to do with narration and commonplace cultural activity than they do elitism or "self-criticism".

60.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 5:10 PM

Here is art, elegant, beautiful, sophisticated.

!=

I always chuckle when the Lascaux or other historical artifacts are characterized as "art of quality, high art", essentially making them part of some vaguely defined tradition of excellence.

Olitski is admiring. Clem is categorizing. I've written before about how you can see taste operating in people - not in the extent to which I agree with them, but in the kind of language they use when they talk about art. The comparison above makes a fine illustration.

61.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 5:11 PM

Eric, I was setting up George for rejection, not any particular work. You're always welcome.

62.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 5:14 PM

He's making an argument linking periods of historical "quality". If you can only see his "appreciation", then you're not seeing much. I'm judging that it's not a very good argument. But way to characterize how I appreciate visual art from that comment!

63.

Chris Rywalt

May 30, 2008, 5:16 PM

Jack sez:
Oh, and Chris, the v---a comment is far too gynecological for comfort.

I love vulvas. I can't help it. It's who I am, dammit! Who are you to deny me my individuality? I'm just an outgrowth of my culture! Vulvas are my cultural heritage!

64.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 5:31 PM

He's making an argument linking periods of historical "quality".

No, he's looking here, and looking there. Read. Don't read into it - just read it.

65.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 6:37 PM

In a Herculean attempt to maintain dignified composure, in keeping with our breeding (or the illusion thereof), we will refrain from responding to #59 with some vulgar colloquialism like ROTFLMAO. We hope the blogmeister will appreciate our extreme forbearance in the face of such calculated provocation--and if it be not calculated, but spontaneous, that only makes it all the more...disturbing.

Indeed, we will go so far as to state that the, er, sentiments expressed in #59, and distressingly reaffirmed in #62, are such that even George would be hard-pressed to surpass them. Their author, of course, may well be flattered by that assertion, which would give it an interesting duality.

In any case, we are amazed at what the proverbial cat continually drags in to our humble little blog. Truly, we are hardly deserving, or putting it another way...What have we done to deserve this?

66.

Jack

May 30, 2008, 7:01 PM

Chris, you must get therapy at once. We cannot have you compromising our reputation--which is plenty compromised as it is. Oriane must be apoplectic, the poor girl, I mean woman, I mean non-male human.

After all, a hostile environment is one thing (and not the worst one, in my opinion), but having gender issues is unthinkable. It's already bad enough that Franklin likes Balthus, or at least that he openly admits it.

My heart goes out to your wife. She must be a brave, noble soul.

67.

opie

May 30, 2008, 7:35 PM

Clem #59 is classic. I have never known anyone who can so readily take a simple statement and shatter it into a perfect storm of non-sequitures.

Jack, I wish Oriane would come back and carry on. Arthur Whitman, too.

68.

opie

May 30, 2008, 7:45 PM

I remember talking to Jules about "Barley Soup". he was hesitant to bring up the analogy of barley soup and had it down toward the end of the talk, as a kind of conclusion. He thought it was too commonplace and plain for the very intellectual audience he was addressing. (I think he was half tongue-in-cheek about this, though), I told him he had to bring it right up to the beginning and stick their noses in it. He thought that was funny and went ahead and did it, and they all loved it, so I am told.

Jack that time you heard him might have been when he had a show t our gallery at UM in 1994. The audience was packed and everyone was very taken with Jules's tlk.

69.

Arthur Whitman

May 30, 2008, 8:53 PM

I'll come back and carry on. Just not right now.

70.

Clem

May 30, 2008, 9:10 PM

Honest to gosh Franklin. It's not exactly like I'm putting together some overly suspicious or abstract motive. This is a talk intended to argue a point and provide proof. He observes individual developments/achievements in order to make a historical argument for vague "quality". What is he looking at these individual moments for, but to conclude from them that "throughout the ages (and most particularly in Hellenic art) beauty and excellence were premier goals, until now...".

Linking Lascaux with formalism, abstraction, or your examples of NewMo is ridiculous and you well know it. The reverence with which we hold these examples is in large part due to their historical context. It's equally clear that they serve a clear function of representation and meaning. Don't fetishize their visuality any more than that.

71.

Franklin

May 30, 2008, 11:25 PM

Your model of pomo doesn't have an Off switch, apparently. Let's break it down:

He observes individual developments/achievements in order to make a historical argument for vague "quality".

We had this argument already and it didn't work out so well for you. Quality can only be detected, not defined. That doesn't make it "vague," but a kind of phenomenon known by experience rather than by definition, and thus definable only by tautologies. Like saltiness, remember? We've already determined that you're so hamstrung that you can't give a simple definition for "salty."

What is he looking at these individual moments for, but to conclude from them that "throughout the ages (and most particularly in Hellenic art) beauty and excellence were premier goals, until now...".

Prove that they weren't.

Linking Lascaux with formalism, abstraction, or your examples of NewMo is ridiculous and you well know it.

Those paintings didn't turn out as beautiful as they are by accident. Quite a few people trained hard to produce them, experimented with materials, and did several thousand paintings outside the caves in order to get to the point that they could produce the ones we found on the inside. Nothing else could account for their high level of workmanship and artistic triumph. They likely had a master-apprentice system. Whatever inspired their creation, those ancient humans knew how to compare instances of visual success. They knew quality. That's their connection to all other art.

The reverence with which we hold these examples is in large part due to their historical context.

We wouldn't revere them so much if they were just random splotches. As it happens, they're lovely. Opie has seen them in person, I think.

It's equally clear that they serve a clear function of representation and meaning.

Representation and meaning have always been features of picture-making, even as 20th C. abstraction made it clear that such features were optional.

Don't fetishize their visuality any more than that.

If you wanted to set out to prove to me that you have no eye, this last sentence would cinch it. "Fetishize their visuality" might get you through grad school, but to me it looks like an approximate rendering, in jargon, of the experience of visual pleasure by someone who doesn't experience visual pleasure.

By the way, if the Lascaux paintings "serve a clear function of representation and meaning," what do they mean? You must know, if they're so clear.

72.

John

May 31, 2008, 1:37 AM

Clem (#59, concerning the cave images at Lascaux): "I think they have much more to do with narration and commonplace cultural activity than they do elitism or "self-criticism".

How can you possibly know anything about the "narration and commonplace cultural activity" of 20,000 or so years ago? All we know about it is that someone or ones made these pictures and they are very good. As far as narration goes, a lot of art history books assert something like that, that the images were used to further success in hunts, and so on. But where is your skepticism? No one knows their story - talk about "vague", asserting they have a story is the vaguest of speculation. The only thing that is not speculation is what one finds when one looks at the images themselves. They are not only very good, but they are better than most, if not all, of the other "historical artifacts" that we know about.

While it can't be proved they are "excellent", their excellence or lack thereof can be experienced - right now, more or less as their makers created it, depending upon their state of repair and one's access to the caves where they exist. The "narration" you want to talk about is literally smoke and mirrors invented thousands of years after the art was made, outside the "historical context" many revere so highly. "Narration" can't be experienced except as highly questionable conjecture about "history" that took place before history was a serious undertaking of the human race. I mean, we don't even have a typical dumb artist statement from the people who made these things. Wisely enough, their only "statement" was the images themselves.

As deKooning says in that weird film PAINTERS PAINTING, painters aren't bright enough to make verbiage. The smartest ones do what they do best, JUST PAINT.

73.

opie

May 31, 2008, 4:47 AM

Clem linking any kind of art with any other kind of art in terms of quality is clearly and obviously not ridiculous, on the face of it, no matter when or how it was made or whatever else you say about it. It is your statement that is ridiculous.

74.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 6:16 AM

Thanks for #73, OP. Saved me a comment, even though I would have dug the knife in deeper.

75.

Clem

May 31, 2008, 6:35 AM

Can you guys be any more dense?

Franklin, read what I wrote and actually address it for once. He's citing individual experiences in order to make an argument, in order to build a tradition. This is a pretty standard tactic for a lot of conservatism, and in this particular case is reductive of a lot of history. If you can't admit that our experiences/perceptions of some of our oldest visual artistry are definitively shaped by their historical distance from us, then you're fooling yourself. Their beauty includes the facts of their origin and survival.

John, don't start with me about speculation when the article that you linked to includes throwaway comments regarding Lascaux like "Degas, who could really draw, would have been impressed. Matisse, a master of color, would have fainted". Not to mention Franklin's elaboration of the process and possible "system" that allowed for them. Archaeological reconstruction and theorization is itself speculative, particularly for the time and evidence in question.

Opie,

Actually I think it's precisely because of "when and how [something] was made" (i'd also include "why") that allows us gauge quality. It is these contexts which actually give us a more realistic way of relating to / constructing the past, than the vagueries of "seeing quality".

76.

Clem

May 31, 2008, 6:43 AM

And regarding taste, I hope most of you didn't miss out on this article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/28/dining/28flavor.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=taste+berries&st=nyt&oref=slogin

77.

opie

May 31, 2008, 7:32 AM

More of your usual non-sequiturs, Clem. We talk about perceiveing esthetic quality. You respond with "constructing the past".

You are apparently constitutionally incapable of grasping the substance of any discussion.

78.

Chris Rywalt

May 31, 2008, 7:35 AM

Jack sez:
My heart goes out to your wife. She must be a brave, noble soul.

It's a wonder she doesn't kill me in my sleep.

79.

george

May 31, 2008, 7:36 AM

Quality can only be detected, not defined.

So stop right there.

The Quality-Meter can just rate stuff on a scale of 1 to 10, nothing more needs to be said. Artforum will now look like a thin phonebook.

So who is inside the quality meter here? And, how did the results get so fucked up?

80.

opie

May 31, 2008, 7:40 AM

And you call names, give motives, use innuendo, obfuscate, and so on. Calling this bunch "dense" is just silly. You don't seem unintelligent, but your intelligence wastes all its time bobbing and weaving and taking cover.

I wish we had some smart, stand-up opposition. This is getting tiresome.

81.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 7:40 AM

Can you be any more blind? I did address what you wrote, point by point, and suggesting I did otherwise does not make up for your inability to support your reflexive ascription of motives. Again, if "their beauty includes the facts of their origin and survival," tell me what the facts about their origins are. Or at least admit that you're regurgitating other peoples' ideas about them.

82.

opie

May 31, 2008, 7:41 AM

I don't disagree, George, at least I don't think I do, but what is your point?

83.

opie

May 31, 2008, 7:47 AM

Franklin a "fact of their origin" might be that it is a picture of a deer or bison. The problem is that this has nothing whatsoever with whether the pictures are any good or not. I hope we don't have to rehash the old "quality/content" thing again. And even if we did we would get a response out of left field.

There must be someone out there who can give us a good argument.

84.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 7:50 AM

Artforum will now look like a thin phonebook.

Artforum already looks like a thin phone book.

Things got f'd up because talent for seeing is relatively rare among the total populace of people interested in art.

I'm not averse to 1-10 scales and star systems as far as they go, but they ultimately try to quantify a qualitative experience and therefore only go so far.

85.

george

May 31, 2008, 8:12 AM

Things got f'd up because talent for seeing is relatively rare among the total populace of people interested in art.

Well, maybe or maybe not, I would like to suggest that the perception of quality, taste, is influenced by peoples prejudices towards one kind of art or another. Moreover, an individuals taste may be formed in an earlier period in a persons life and incapable of adjusting to new art outside their defined boundaries. Individuals make a lifetime commitment to a particular type of art making, a style of art, or particular philosophy, and again find themselves incapable of adjusting to new art.

None of these characteristics are unusual or a cause for damnation, but we should be aware that they occur, that taste is just as subject to bias as anything else. The examples given here prove the point.

86.

opie

May 31, 2008, 8:24 AM

This my be true George, but obviously you are just telling us once again that we are hidebound with our taste stuck in the past and we can't adapt. Snore.

Then you follow with "examples given here" which would not only prove nothing but are nonspecific so they couldn't anyway.

Talk about "incfluence"! I think you are beginning to be influenced by Clem.

87.

MC

May 31, 2008, 8:28 AM

Well done George.

Now, you realize that the idea is to correct for such bias, instead of passively embracing it, right? You know, just like a scientist, or a judge, or anyone else might, when they are susceptible to bias :they may (or may not) make an effort to go beyond those biases, to strive for objectivity.

An individual always risks forming biases, but can always work to overcome them...

Clem, I think it's safe to assume at this point, is some sort of academic, probably an art historian (correct me if I'm wrong, Clem), but certainly not an artist. It puzzles me that artists in a BFA or MFA are generally required to study history and theory (mandatory readings of Rorty, Deleuze & Guattari, Yadda-yadda, etc) alongside their studio work, learning technique and developing their eye; while for an art historian, there is never any requirement to develop any understanding beyond the history and theory to learn about how art is actually made and looked at.

Their ignorance is forgivable, of course... it's the lack of humility about same that is troubling. Really, Opie, Franklin, you shouldn't go to the trouble to patiently explain this to Clem, when they're gonna be such a defensive prick about it all...

88.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 8:41 AM

What MC said, but also, the biases mentioned in #85 are the result of mistaking traits for quality. As I've written before, this is a lapse of taste, not taste itself.

89.

opie

May 31, 2008, 8:42 AM

Art historians have always been uncomfortable with the idea that there is some kind of life in art, MC.

90.

george

May 31, 2008, 8:56 AM

op, "stuck in the past" is your psychological issue and unrelated to what I was suggesting. Obviously my phrase a "lifetime commitment" suggests time but it is also coupled to a particular focus which I'm suggesting causes perceptual bias.

The examples are ripe with other artists that people here like, either because they are friends or because the subscribe to the same art making philosophy. But, I've seen several paintings by some of the artists on John's list, and aside from the above, I cannot fathom why they were included.

91.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 8:57 AM

op, "stuck in the past" is your psychological issue

I just snorted my coffee.

92.

george

May 31, 2008, 9:03 AM

the biases mentioned in #85 are the result of mistaking traits for quality.

This is incorrect, I was not judging quality, nor suggesting what quality is, for the sake of argument I accepted your definition. What I was suggesting was that individuals, including individuals here, exhibit a bias in their process of judging quality. The result is their judgment of quality. If it is affected by mistaking "traits for quality" then the flaw exists in their judgment of quality, not what I said.

93.

Clem

May 31, 2008, 9:14 AM

I'm on the move, given that it's such a beautiful day around here. But this stopped me in my tracks (and not because I'm defensive about MC's off the mark insinuations about my artistic involvement)

"Art historians have always been uncomfortable with the idea that there is some kind of life in art"

HA!

You guys are the ones who are uncomfortable with the fact that different mediums / styles of work possess "some kind of life" that doesn't agree with your own sense of vitality! People see and judge quality differently, stop trying to imply a kind of objectivity (or Franklin's watered down "panjective") that you're unable to defend in a similarly objective way.

94.

george

May 31, 2008, 9:19 AM

so here we is, approaching 100 comments, quibbling over quality again.

so what's the new modernism supposed to look like?

95.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 9:31 AM

Define "beautiful day," Clem.

96.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 9:33 AM

Like I said, George, we're starting with the artists on John's list whom you can't fathom why they were included.

97.

opie

May 31, 2008, 9:36 AM

George the first paragraph of #90 is disingenuous bullshit. There is no other way to charcterize it. "Stuck in the past" has been your obsessive hobbyhorse ever since you have been commenting here.

Clem if you could lose that damn slash and respond to anything at all directly it might be possible to discuss something with you.

98.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 9:38 AM

Incidentally, I'll defend my panjective argument against reasoned counterargument, but I think it holds its own against mere insult. If you unexpectedly find yourself capable of the former, Clem, have at it.

99.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:14 AM

Nothing disingenuous in my remark. Re-read my comment #85, it is true. There is no ageist tone to it. People do get stuck in the past, why is this so surprising to people? In general, people are afraid of change, they resist change. Research it, you'll find it's true. Regardless, peoples tastes are biased by their opinions, failure to accept this is a major error of judgment.

100.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:18 AM

re 96

Franklin, I don't get Jim Walsh's work at all, can you make a case for it?

FTR, I spent a lot of time ;looking at Ann Walsh's work which I liked, does that exclude her?

101.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:20 AM

Does new modernism have a slot for good but boring?

102.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 10:31 AM

Re #67 (2nd paragraph), it could be desirable to have a non-male human around here, and Oriane is already tolerably housebroken, if still tetchy about g----r. Also, she has a cool name. It might improve our tonal balance, I suppose.

Re #68: No, OP, it was a good bit later. The show and the talk were at Ameringer & Yohe in Boca Raton.

Re #80, this has been tiresome, very, for quite some time. It will continue to be as long as the culprits continue to be given the time of day.

Re #93: By all means keep moving. May I suggest the EW blog? George was apparently very well received there (though sadly he has strayed back here), which is all you need to know. I've no doubt it would prove a far more congenial environment for your, uh, issues.

103.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:35 AM

re #22

"Important" and "influential" = "trendy"

So we are to exclude these works?

Whose bias is this?

104.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 10:37 AM

I have consummate regard for both Walshes. Jim's ability to make paintings coalesce around a combination of washed canvas and thick passages of acrylic - by which I mean upwards to eight inches thick - is just extraordinary. I've spent a fair amount of time with a couple dozen of them, and they reward long exposure.

Good, in the way I mean it, is never boring.

So we are to exclude these works?

Not if they're good.

105.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 10:38 AM

Re #78, Chris, I wouldn't give her any ideas if I were you.

106.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:39 AM

jack, never once have I ever heard you say anything nice about a living artist. Why are you even here? You have made no suggestions, added no one to the list, all you do is bitch, bitch, bitch. You are a conversation killer. Color you grey.

107.

george

May 31, 2008, 10:45 AM

Good, in the way I mean it, is never boring

erm, so if something is boring, it's not good?

108.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 10:53 AM

You're hardly a good listener, George.

If you wonder why I'm here, you definitely don't want to know what I think of your presence among us. The same applies in principle to your objections to my comments.

As for "grey," you must be confusing me with Mr. Johns, who's done quite well for himself with that color, at least in commercial terms.

And as for being a conversation killer, I wish. You're still talking, aren't you?

109.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 11:00 AM

so if something is boring, it's not good?

I hadn't thought about whether the converse is true. Perhaps one can become bored of good things, by overexposure perhaps, but I would distinguish between that and the boredom one experiences in front of boring art. If you take a break from the former and go back to it later, it ought to look good again. Whereas repeat exposure to the latter just gets you boredom every time.

110.

opie

May 31, 2008, 11:18 AM

The judgement of goodness excludes boredom. If you look at something and it bores you, at that moment your judgement is that it is no good.

I might be bored looking at painting I love in a museum because I am very hunrgy, or have to take a pee. I would probably come back after lunch and love it again .

111.

opie

May 31, 2008, 11:23 AM

George, if we can tolerate you & Clem, you can tolerate Jack. The guidelines tell us what to not do.

112.

george

May 31, 2008, 11:24 AM

How do you account for overlapping tastes between people?
Where there is common ground about some art and disagreement about other art. Who is right?

113.

george

May 31, 2008, 11:28 AM

[111] ook. I'll toiletrate him

114.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 11:33 AM

@#112: Quality exists in the object. People have differing abilities to detect quality. The one who perceives quality where it exists is right.

115.

opie

May 31, 2008, 11:36 AM

George:

You write:

How do you account for overlapping tastes between people?

Where there is common ground about some art and disagreement about other art. Who is right?

These are the fundament; unresolved (but I do not thing unresolvable) questions of taste. If we could discuss them reasonably It yould elevate the current discussion greatly, but it won't be easy to form consensus unless everyone listens to reason and logic.

116.

John

May 31, 2008, 11:39 AM

george and others: My list was primarily a list of work I liked. It was conditioned by a couple of things: 1) I had to be able to find the work on a clearly accessible URL - not always easy to do and impossible in some cases; 2), I tended to work hardest at finding images by artists that had not already been mentioned - though that was not a hard "rule"; 3) at no point was I attempting to form an exhaustive list - many of the artists and works mentioned by others were among things I liked. It follows, I think, that I was not defining "new-modernism" in any formal sense. Rather, I was defining stuff I like, but even that was in a seriously limited way. Clearly, a lot of it could fall under a new-mo umbrella, more or less, depending on how that umbrella might be characterized.

I thought we were simply asking each other for specific examples of stuff we liked. That was very enjoyable to me, both in presenting stuff I like and in seeing what others liked. JPEGs have limitations, but I learned a lot about our various participants, and something about artists I did not know at all, as well.

Clem (way back there somewhere) said I have no right to call him on speculation since Jules Olitski speculated in the BARLEY statement. Clem, all I did was furnish a click on URL for someone who requested it. I did not comment at all about the words, but will say for your interest that I felt his statements about the impressionists were fanciful, not assertions of historical fact, nor were they to be construed as being more "relevant" than the work itself. Yours about the great cave painters and their everyday culture and "narration", on the other hand, are much more assertive than simply being an expression of your own fancy. They are speculation about "history" long before history was much of a human project. Your speculation was presented as somehow more important than that which does remain as a fact, the splendor of the works themselves. I will always take a "subjective" aesthetic response over any intellectual conjecture when it comes to experiencing art.

117.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 12:04 PM

Thanks for #111, OP, but surely you know it's superfluous. What a George thinks of me (or anything else, for that matter) is entirely inconsequential. I do, however, admit that I should probably be more strict in observing my own policy of not bothering with those who are not worth the bother.

118.

george

May 31, 2008, 1:12 PM

[118] john,

I hadn't intended to single out your list specifically, I originally took it more or less as you intended. But, now we have a bunch of painters listed out and certain patterns show up. I played gotcha with your list, but it wasn't personal.

Op says mine are 'trendy.' Well, they are painters showing in NYC galleries, where I live, so I have actually seen the work. There are a lot of other painters I didn't mention because I'm not impressed with their work. No one I selected makes work similar to mine and if I have a bias I don't think it's directed towards a particular style of painting.

I also think the 'quality' issue is a bugaboo as far as new modernism is concerned. Quality is part of the job description for a painter, it should go without saying. People can argue over 'what's good' forever without coming to a conclusion, I suspect this will never change.

I do find a lot of painting boring, it simply does not engage me and I walk on.

That is the real issue that needs to be discussed, what work feels relevant and what does not, why? It has nothing to do with fashion or trendy, in all honesty work which seems to engage the audience may become trendy or fashionable, but in that order, not the other way around.

119.

opie

May 31, 2008, 1:27 PM

The first thing we need to do to pursue this thing, George, is get rid of "relevant" and "important" and "influential". There is plenty of bad art that is all of those things. If we can start with the assumption that there is such a thing as good art, that would be a first step.

permit me to introduce an extract which may be helpful:

"Once we accept that there there is such a thing as good art and bad art and that good art has value for us then we are forced to conclude that the judgements we make about it are not individual exercises of taste but functions of how well we get what the art has. We are too neurologically similar to even suggest, as the word "subjective" does, that the judgement of this thing we love and agonize over and spend billions on can possibly be intrinsically capricious. We don't need to make a list of great art or even agree about what is good, although we do that anyway. All we need to do is agree that there is such a thing in the first place. Everything else follows from that. The artist puts something in; you take something out. There is value there or there isn't. You either get it or you don't. Art is for you, and getting it is up to you, nobody else.

Furthermore, art in the viewing comes acoss through the singular effect of the living whole, not the identifiable elements nor the intellectually derived implications of the recognizable parts. These are only materials, musical notes or words or oil paint or more complex configurations and embodiments. Art as such resides not in specifiable content but as a reflection of a series of judgements the artist made about content while consulting that core experience. There are a million paintings of the crucifixion, for example. They all have the same intense, meaningful familiar content. However, very few are great art, and the art experience provided by these has nothing to do - I repeat, nothing to do - with religion."

120.

opie

May 31, 2008, 1:28 PM

unfortunately i will be away from my computer for the next 2/3 hrs.

121.

george

May 31, 2008, 1:47 PM

jeezez, read my comment.

"Quality is part of the job description for a painter, it should go without saying."

"That is the real issue that needs to be discussed, what work feels relevant and what does not, why?"

There are a few of galleries in NYC that sell "impressionist" style paintings. I've looked at them, and you know, many are well done, they can be beautiful, good you might even say, but they aren't relevant.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter how good a painting is if no one wants to look at it. In fact, if no one wants to look at it it might not be very good.

Now, the critical issue is involved with both functions, good and relevant. Relevant is a tricky word, almost as tricky as 'quality' because relevant is not about the marketplace, it is not about fashion, it is about having the ability to engage the viewer, to evoke an experience in the viewer.

Paintings which cannot do this fall on deaf ears, they become wall decoration which is a significant part of the art market but irrelevant.

122.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 2:32 PM

Op says mine are 'trendy.'

In response to George's saying that some unspecified new modernist pictures were "provincial." How soon we forget. I also recall something about junk wall decoration.

I also think the 'quality' issue is a bugaboo as far as new modernism is concerned. Quality is part of the job description for a painter, it should go without saying. People can argue over 'what's good' forever without coming to a conclusion, I suspect this will never change.

"Bugaboo" does not mean what you think it means. And while quality ought to go without saying, I was at the Broad collection at MOCA last month and I can tell you that quality is far from a lot of minds in the art world. As for not coming to a conclusion, speak for yourself.

...relevant is not about the marketplace, it is not about fashion, it is about having the ability to engage the viewer, to evoke an experience in the viewer.

A few years ago I saw a Douglas Gordon exhibition. I thought it was puerile, and I responded with an experience of irritation akin to suffering the presence of an obnoxious five-year-old. As art, it sucked. I want quality.

123.

george

May 31, 2008, 4:09 PM

erm, what does Douglas Gordon have to do with painting?

re the rest, you are looking backwards playing defense, hoping some of the sideline players are going to help you out. For some reason, I kind of doubt it.

124.

opie

May 31, 2008, 4:12 PM

George, in #112, you asked a couple of very good questions

No you are messng it up with "relevance".

Which do you want to do, answer the questions or go on about relevance? If it is the latter, count me out.

125.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 4:16 PM

you are looking backwards playing defense, hoping some of the sideline players are going to help you out.

I am making the calls as I see them and couldn't care less whether someone helps out or not.

126.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 5:58 PM

It's against my better judgment, but I'll nibble on the worm.

So the new and improved definition of "relevance" asserts that it is neither about the marketplace nor fashion, but about the work's ability to engage and evoke an experience in the viewer. So far, so good, or good enough.

Let's assume that this is offered in earnest and is not a disingenuous evasion, diversionary tactic or smokescreen.

By said definition, any work, regardless of when or how or why or by whom it was made, is relevant as long as it engages the viewer and evokes a significant response. It could be prehistoric cave painting, classical Greek art, Giotto, Rembrandt, Turner, Pollock, anything. Anything, right here, right now.

So how could something be irrelevant simply because it can be classified as, say, impressionist? What does style have to do with it? Is Monet irrelevant, then? If he could be resurrected and set about creating new masterpieces in his particular vein, would they be irrelevant? That would clearly contradict the aforementioned definition, since they would certainly engage viewers and evoke a significant response, just as his known oeuvre has always done and still does. So what gives?

One can have it one way or the other, but not both.

The bottom line, as always, is how good is it? Not style, not content, not sales price, not who's buying it or showing it or pushing it, not how popular or influential it might be. That's it: How good is it?--as art, obviously. Because if it's not good enough, all the rest of it is ultimately, well, irrelevant.

127.

Jesus!

May 31, 2008, 6:05 PM

You guys keep yacking about quality, but can't even give good examples of it, let alone make it yourselves. But I guess that's why you're bloggers instead of artists with actual shows, media coverage, or decent pay!

128.

Franklin

May 31, 2008, 6:27 PM

Hi, Jesus! So I take it that you're an actual artist with shows, media coverage, and decent pay, then? I look forward to seeing your work!

129.

Jack

May 31, 2008, 7:24 PM

Well, not being an artist at all, I wouldn't know about these things, but one would think artists with actual shows, media coverage and decent pay would have better things to do than mindless drive-by shootings. Go figure.

130.

ahab

May 31, 2008, 8:13 PM

To consider the visual aspect of petroglyphs (or anything else that's worth looking at) is the inverse of fetishization. When looking at them for what they simply appear to be, they contain no mystery requiring contrived assurances and rationalizations. The visual I perceive is the actual present; and in the case of Lascaux, it is good.

It's the need to contextualize and historicize and relativize the mysterious that results in a fetish - an explanation. Curiously, the fetish is itself impermanent and fleeting yet most contemporarily relevant.

131.

opie

May 31, 2008, 9:23 PM

So now we have a drive-by named Jesus. With an exclamation point!

I think we are coming up in the world.

132.

Jack [But not our usual one. - F.]

June 1, 2008, 2:33 AM

This is really amazing thread!! [Thanks! I have deleted your link. - F.]

133.

Jack

June 1, 2008, 5:15 AM

I did not post #132.

134.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 7:26 AM

Regarding Jim Walsh: Is that a painting or is it edging over into sculpture?

Oh, and Jack sez:
Re #78, Chris, I wouldn't give her any ideas if I were you.

Maybe someday I'll tell you about the time I had to hide the sharp knives from the kitchen.

135.

ahab

June 1, 2008, 7:57 AM

You ca imagine the importance of what Jesus cares about.

136.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 10:21 AM

Re: Lascaux

Most of the reverence we hold for these paintings (and there aren't any petroglyphs there, unless I'm mistaken ) is due to their age. I'm not arguing against their visual characteristics, but that this isn't really what makes us treasure them. It is their historical context and the fact that they remain which largely shapes how we see them. I called accounts like Olitski's fetishistic precisely because it focus so narrowly, and exaggerates, their visual aspects to the detriment of these other factors that shape our experience and appreciation of them. I don't know how many times that I can repeat that seeing is entrenched with a whole number of things.

Of course someone like Franklin is going to argue that it's only those who can truly see that will appreciate them for the right reasons, but until he makes a worthwhile case for determining superior "charges" or "templates" then I'm not going to buy into his "panjective".

Focusing on specific art seems to have been the most helpful in this discussion, so I'm going to look for some examples that don't involve feces and/or balls. You guys have been constructing a straw-man against lively and interesting art for too long!

137.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 10:26 AM

Oh and John,

I wasb't trying to make a case for a specific interpretation. Just that they represent and communicate something.

138.

opie

June 1, 2008, 10:41 AM

Clem you are arguing against the clearly articulatd experience of thousands of people who are sensitive to art and who have seen these cave paintings, including myself. Their reputation depends on their quality as art, coupled with their antiquity. There are plenty of other undistinguished ancient cave drawings and paintings which people do not wonder at in this way.

You really give strong evidence that you are not very sensitive to art. Are you in the art business in some way? If so you might want to reconsider.

139.

Jack

June 1, 2008, 12:10 PM

OP, give it up. Can't you see it's hopeless? As far as I'm concerned, the case was closed some while back.

140.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 12:22 PM

Clem sez:
You guys have been constructing a straw-man against lively and interesting art for too long!

Just for the record, I didn't start out intending to construct a straw man. I started out inclined to appreciate all kinds of art. I've been a Discordian since junior high, so the idea of chaos for the sake of chaos, not to mention humorous randomness, is one I cherish deeply. I'm a big fan of wacky.

Frank Zappa once famously asked, "Does humor belong in music?" His answer, of course, was a resounding yes. I think we can expand his question to ask it about art, and maybe enlarge our idea of humor: Does humor, satire, irony, sarcasm, and stupidity belong in art? And I'd certainly answer yes -- to a point.

Taking Zappa's music as a stand-in, then, I can say that, while I like a lot of his stuff, there are times when I really wish he'd have buckled down and been serious. Because there are times when his humor -- his need for larding everything he did with scatology, invective, and profanity -- overwhelms what could've been truly sublime music. He even took his most heartfelt, moving, and sincere-sounding guitar solo (to my mind) and wrapped it in a snide comment: The full title, as Zappa revealed once in an interview, of "Watermelon in Easter Hay" is "Trying to Solo with This Band Is Like Trying to Grow a Watermelon in Easter Hay."

So it's not that I set out to construct a straw man to represent some lively and interesting art of which I simply did not approve. It's that I saw a vast wasteland of humorous, satirical, ironic, sarcastic, stupid, and above all unintelligent (to say nothing of unintelligible) stuff being passed off as art, and I have sought to explain and overcome it.

Recently I saw a show from a Chinese artist. The show represented an enormous investment of time and energy from the artist; on top of that, it was handsomely mounted throughout a large gallery in Chelsea, obviously at great expense. It looked really great -- the whole show was a triumph, I think, of the gallerist's craft, showing the work to best advantage and building a proper space for the art.

But I can sum up the whole show very quickly such that you can get everything out of it you would've gotten from seeing it: The artist imagined that cartoon characters were real creatures, and that archaeologists and naturalists could dig up their skeletons and display them. So the whole show consisted of what I guess you'd call life-size skeletons -- about three feet tall, mostly -- of Bugs Bunny being chased by Elmer Fudd, and Sylvester stalking Tweety, and the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and so on and so forth.

Each skeleton was crafted with an incredible attention to detail. I'd say that all the bones were handmade and then mounted like a real articulated skeleton. Each tableau was arranged by someone who'd clearly spent a lot of time in museums of natural history examining how that type of thing is done. On the walls were schematics and drawings in the style of 19th-century natural historians showing cutaways and anatomical details of many cartoon characters -- mostly Warner Bros. but a bunch of Disney guys, too, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Finally, at the back of the gallery, there was a full-size mock-up -- like you'd get in a museum exhibit -- showing a putative workroom where the researchers would clean up the bones and build the exhibits, complete with tools, shelves full of loose bones and skulls, jars and canisters, and workbenches.

It was a mind-boggling feat of trompe l'oeil to have put all this together. It was truly fantastic and awe-inspiring. And it was, at bottom, a one-line joke. Part of me wanted to cheer and part of me wanted to weep: Is this really worth all this effort? Is this really a worthwhile use of someone's time and skill? Is this really it?

Fact is, I didn't need to construct a straw man. It constructed itself. Olitski, in that speech linked to above, talked about decadence and barbarians. Bugs Bunny skeletons as art? That's the very definition of decadence.

141.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 12:25 PM

"Their reputation depends on their quality as art, coupled with their antiquity".

As I said, I don't disagree with the first part of this. I'm just insisting on the necessity of the second-- which I'm glad to see you seem to as well. The context in which we view art is never secondary, plain and simple. This is realistically part of how we assess quality. I'm sure one of you is eager to point out that we "experience" quality, but that's not what we're doing here, we're talking about aesthetic judgments.

Jack, it was actually refreshing to see you throw out some input into the discussion earlier. Otherwise, you're almost as "mindless" as our good savior. For someone who contends that they get more enjoyment out of not paying to see art that they assume they'll dislike, you've already shown that you value pettiness over honest engagement.

142.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 12:26 PM

I guess I should put a link in to the artist: Hyungkoo Lee's Animatus.

143.

Franklin

June 1, 2008, 12:29 PM

Most of the reverence we hold for these paintings ... is due to their age. I'm not arguing against their visual characteristics, but that this isn't really what makes us treasure them.

First of all, who is this "us" you refer to? Kindly don't include me, or anyone else who appreciates the artistry of these works. I'm likewise not saying that their antiquity isn't important, but that appreciating them for historical reasons and appreciating them for artistic reasons are not the same kind of appreciation.

It is their historical context and the fact that they remain which largely shapes how we see them.

It shapes how we regard them historically, but the way we regard them artistically is ahistorical. One of the drawings at Lascaux ended up becoming known as the Chinese Horse. Was that because of some kind of historical connection to China? Of course not. It was because if you're at all familiar with Chinese ink painting you recognize the similar style and economy of execution.

I called accounts like Olitski's fetishistic precisely because it focus so narrowly, and exaggerates, their visual aspects to the detriment of these other factors that shape our experience and appreciation of them.

Let me ask you something - to what is extent is it permissible to focus on their visual aspects? Is Olitski, despite his greatness as an artist, at some kind of intellectual fault because he emphasizes their artistic excellence to the extent of other factors that shape your experience and appreciation of them? And finally, what are these other factors, and to what extent do they have to be included relative to the appreciation of visual concerns to satisfy your requirements?

I don't know how many times that I can repeat that seeing is entrenched with a whole number of things.

No, a whole number of other things are entrenched in seeing.

Of course someone like Franklin is going to argue that it's only those who can truly see that will appreciate them for the right reasons, but until he makes a worthwhile case for determining superior "charges" or "templates" then I'm not going to buy into his "panjective".

I hate arguing against scare-quoted terms because they have a habit of shifting meaning when the person putting them out finds himself cornered. I don't know if there are right reasons, but there are visual and non-visual reasons, for sure.

You guys have been constructing a straw-man against lively and interesting art for too long!

Just because you disagree with the argument, and can't construct an adequate counterargument, doesn't make it a straw-man argument.

I wasb't trying to make a case for a specific interpretation. Just that they represent and communicate something.

They represent, overtly, some specific herd animals. I can tell that by looking at them. Do you not see something malformed, to put it nicely, with saying that they communicate something and not being able to say what? What are they communicating, then? And if they represent something beyond what they depict, what do they represent?

144.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 12:43 PM

Chris,

I think that "decadence" is a difficult thing to objectively evaluate. How is enacting a one line joke seemingly any less interesting or productive than enacting "somatic states" as per our earlier discussion of Caro's work? What are you getting at with that particular term? Wasteful, unimportant, undignified? Maybe that will clear your criticism up a little bit.

I wanted to get back to some concrete examples too. How about some well-known photographers who easily fall into the conceptual realm:

Cindy Sherman
Jeff Wall
Yasumasa Morimura

(Sorry if I'm diluting our focus on painters)

145.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 12:59 PM

Can't say much about those guys you list, Clem, except that I'm not sure I like Cindy Sherman's work. I have to admit extreme ignorance about most of it, so my opinion is mostly hearsay.

To me, decadence is waste. Putting energy into something worthless while other more important things languish. Fiddling while Rome burns.

There's a sense in which I feel as if all art is decadent. I mean, what good does a painting by me do anyone? In our world of tragedy and pain, what the fuck am I doing? I said this to my psychiatrist once and he replied, seemingly stunned, "You're not really asking me what's the point of art, are you?"

When I'm feeling less depressed -- and I freely admit when I'm more depressed I'm almost hallucinatory -- when I'm less depressed I can take it on faith that art is worth something. I'm still not sure my art is worth something, but I can imagine that there exists art which is worth the effort.

Given our world today I cannot imagine a Bugs Bunny skeleton is worth the effort. Given our world today I cannot imagine it's a good idea to pay thousands of dollars to give a cat chemotherapy. That's decadence to me. When I see things like that, part of me sides with the barbarians.

146.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 1:06 PM

Franklin sez:
What are they communicating, then? And if they represent something beyond what they depict, what do they represent?

Thinking of cave paintings and what they represent makes me think of the Uffington White Horse. As Terry Pratchett wrote for one of his characters to say, "Taint what a horse looks like, it's what a horse be," and I'd agree. It's a wonderful drawing, really, out of prehistory, and no one knows why it's there or what it was for, except that it seems to be a horse; and enough people value it highly enough to have worked to keep it visible for hundreds upon hundreds of years (because it rapidly becomes overgrown if left alone).

It doesn't represent anything, it doesn't mean anything, it isn't anything but what it is, and that's what a horse be. And that's the essence of art and why we value it.

147.

Chris Rywalt

June 1, 2008, 1:12 PM

Yasumasa Morimura appears to me to be an idiot. I mean, anyone can do stupid crap like that. I've done stupid crap like that. But I don't call it art.

Grr, looking at Morimura dreck online actually pisses me off. What a fuckwit. He needs a good smack in the head. Asswipe!

Goddamn. There goes my rep.

148.

opie

June 1, 2008, 1:38 PM

Clem, I did not say that the quality of the cave paintings depended on the context, I said their reputation does, in part. Can't you keep anything straight?


"...we "experience" quality, but that's not what we're doing here, we're talking about aesthetic judgments."

It's the same thing.If you had ever had an esthetic experience you would know this, but you give no evidence that this has ever happened.

149.

Jack

June 1, 2008, 3:33 PM

Clem, son, or better yet, Clemson (in honor of that bastion of high culture in South Carolina), you're too bush league to engage and don't actually rate a response, but it's a boring Sunday evening, so I'll rouse myself to one.

As already noted by others (71, 138, 148), it's increasingly obvious that you're aesthetically challenged, not to say out to lunch--and you're self-righteous about it, to boot. The fact you may be able to talk the talk currently in vogue is of no consequence. Despite my well known objections to George and significant regions of his taste, at least he has one, and some of it is sound, but I'm not sure you even know what taste means.

As others have also wondered or suspected, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you were part of the art system or establishment in some capacity (except an artist), just as I wouldn't be surprised if you were deliberately concealing that. In other words, I tend to doubt you have no conflict of interests, as someone like me could reasonably claim not to have.

As for your cherry-picked reference to my comment regarding the Miami Art Basel circus, I had already given it the benefit of the doubt for several years before deciding to "just say no" to paying to be disappointed again. I also had the benefit of eye-witness reports, including numerous photos, from people who had gone to the venues with an entry fee, all of which indicated that this latest Basel round was strictly business as usual, if not worse. And by the way, have you ever been to our holy week, I mean our Basel extravaganza? Because as I said, I have been around that block, exhaustively, several times, so at least I know whereof I speak.

But really, don't let me keep you. By all means enjoy your refreshment.

150.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 8:48 PM

Great, now you're arguing that I haven't really experienced art. Guess I'm biologically predisposed not to.

Let's move backwards, shall we?

Jack,

"In other words, I tend to doubt you have no conflict of interests, as someone like me could reasonably claim not to have".

You've really done a great job of not showing your bias alright. Sitting out on the sidelines, relying on others opinions or media coverage is no way to experience Art-- even that which you disagree with. I hope we can agree that taking the time to see individual works (ideally in person) is the best way of forming judgment. Certainly I'm guilty of doing the same, but (if Ahab is still out there) actually to took the time to look at some of the steel sculpture that I've so easily dismissed. Talking to you guys has, if nothing else, confirmed how ignoring types of work, artists, or venues "on principle" only confirms one's "bad faith".

Opie,

If you'll read what I wrote, I didn't say that you conflated the two. I was just happy to see that you "coupled" "visual quality" with historical context. I said that one's aesthetic judgment necessarily includes both their visual characteristics and this context. I may have been pushing things to say the latter overwhelmed the former (maybe I need to see them in person and not simply reproduced!), but I truly don't think that we can experience either of these aspects in isolation. You guys are always complaining that I want to muddle experiences, while I say that you're engaging in unrealistic simplification. I don't think that we're going to get much further with arguing about how seeing is socialized, so maybe we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Chris,

I was pretty sure that Yasumasa Morimura was a perfect example of the sort of one trick pony that you had complained earlier about. What I was interested in why was this was such a problem. Is it that the idea lacks quality? And if so, shouldn't this be secondary to NewMo's emphasis on visual quality? Not that I'm sure you can't find fault there either : )

Some Jeff Wall, if you haven't found these already:

http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/

http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/jeffwall/rooms/room6.shtm

(After 'Invisible Man' is one of my favorites)

You should check out some of Sherman's Untitled Film Stills if you haven't had the chance, though I really like some of her later color work as well.

Regarding the "essence" of something, I'm not much of an essentialist as you're already aware of... I think that communication and representation don't necessarily entail reproducing, ignoring, or displacing reality (though they can do this), so much as pointing to it. Obviously I'm no expert on the paintings at Lascaux, but I don't think it's arrogant to infer that they are meant to communicate something to their audience, even if its simply recognition of animal forms. Is anyone here seriously in doubt of their status as signs? I realize that one of you may jump on me for not focusing on their visuality, but as always it is precisely these visual characteristics which enable and enhance their ability to communicate.

I understand what you're saying about wasted resources and effort. But as you say, it gets tricky when you try arbitrate what is & isn't wasteful. I guess I just worry that it's often work which isn't traditional or termed serious, that gets called decadent. For me there's just as much waste in traditional forms and schools. Ahab and MC are likely all too aware of the sculpture cemetery at the university here in Edmonton...

Franklin,

I think that I've already addressed some of what you wrote but here's some specifics.


"appreciating them for historical reasons and appreciating them for artistic reasons are not the same kind of appreciation"

Like I said, I think it's silly to think you can completely isolate the two so easily.

"It shapes how we regard them historically, but the way we regard them artistically is ahistorical. One of the drawings at Lascaux ended up becoming known as the Chinese Horse. Was that because of some kind of historical connection to China? Of course not. It was because if you're at all familiar with Chinese ink painting you recognize the similar style and economy of execution"

How is any of what you're getting at "ahistorical". You're using a specific historical comparison to analyze visual characteristics. This isn't the kind of seeing that you keep going on about, it's art history and training playing itself out in how one sees...

"Let me ask you something - to what is extent is it permissible to focus on their visual aspects?"

I'm not saying you can't focus on one thing or the other. As always, I'm saying that there is more to artistic quality and importance than simply their visual characteristics. Everything that you seem to want to list as "traits" should be included in judging this.



I don't know how many times that I can repeat that seeing is entrenched with a whole number of things.


"I hate arguing against scare-quoted terms because they have a habit of shifting meaning when the person putting them out finds himself cornered"

I am a tortured wild beast, after-all... I just meant that your earlier entry on "panjective" was too speculative to both bringing up in this argument.

"Just because you disagree with the argument, and can't construct an adequate counterargument, doesn't make it a straw-man argument"

The examples and analysis of conceptual/postmodern/performative art that you guys have given are bullshit-- excuse my language... Do you want to revisit examples of this?

I wasb't trying to make a case for a specific interpretation. Just that they represent and communicate something.

"They represent, overtly, some specific herd animals. I can tell that by looking at them. Do you not see something malformed, to put it nicely, with saying that they communicate something and not being able to say what? What are they communicating, then? And if they represent something beyond what they depict, what do they represent?"

Like I said, paintings forms which are meant to depict something and be recognized as such is communication. What I meant was that I wasn't going to interpret these drawings for their particular religious, political, or developmental significance-- like many have done.

151.

george

June 1, 2008, 9:23 PM

Touché

152.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 9:50 PM

Yeah, yeah, muddled & poorly edited as usual! "Fighting" off a gang like you guys can't always be pretty : )

153.

opie

June 1, 2008, 10:13 PM

More like a hurrricane if wasted words than the delicate touch of the epee, George.

I did read what you wrote, Clem. You said

"Most of the reverence we hold for these paintings is due to their age. I'm not arguing against their visual characteristics, but that this isn't really what makes us treasure them. It is their historical context and the fact that they remain which largely shapes how we see them"

Then when I said "Their reputation depends on their quality as art, coupled with their antiquity"you said "As I said, I don't disagree with the first part of this. I'm just insisting on the necessity of the second"

In other words, you contradict yourself from one comment to another. You don't even know what you have written from one place to the next, and you don't even have a clear idea of what you think.

Then you said you were "glad to see that I seem to see" that the second part of my statement "was part of how we assess quality".

I replied that I did not say that, and you rresponded that you didn't say I did.

This is just alphabet soup, and it is stale and inedible. Enough!

"touche" indeed.

154.

Franklin

June 1, 2008, 10:32 PM

Like I said, I think it's silly to think you can completely isolate the two so easily.

Watch closely: Here is an image of some paintings found in northern Egypt that are likely about the same age as the works at Lascaux. They're pretty good for this sort of thing, but they have nothing on the Chinese Horse when it comes to artistry. There, that wasn't so hard.

You're using a specific historical comparison to analyze visual characteristics.

No, I'm seeing visual similarities between two types of work, and I'm far from being the only one. Before I felt sure you have no eye. Now I'm not sure if you even have visual experiences. Let me check something here: why is blue opposite orange on the color wheel for pigment?

I'm not saying you can't focus on one thing or the other. As always, I'm saying that there is more to artistic quality and importance than simply their visual characteristics. Everything that you seem to want to list as "traits" should be included in judging this.

"Importance" - no wonder George finds you convincing. Sure, if you lump artistic quality and importance together into one item, there's more to it than visual characteristics. If you distinguish between visual quality and importance, then artistic quality is all visual characteristics. Art must have traits or there'd be nothing to look at, but the traits themselves have no quality. If they did, it would be very easy to make great art - just use those traits. Actually, there are people in the establishment who really think this. I suspect along with Jack that you may be one of them.

I don't know how many times that I can repeat that seeing is entrenched with a whole number of things.

The statement doesn't gain veracity with further repetition. I think it's losing it, actually.

I just meant that your earlier entry on "panjective" was too speculative to both bringing up in this argument.

That's what you meant by saying ...until he makes a worthwhile case for determining superior "charges" or "templates" then I'm not going to buy into his "panjective"? Disingenuous bullshit. Again, no wonder George finds you convincing.

The examples and analysis of conceptual/postmodern/performative art that you guys have given are bullshit-- excuse my language... Do you want to revisit examples of this?

I'll defend anything I wrote.

Like I said, paintings forms which are meant to depict something and be recognized as such is communication. What I meant was that I wasn't going to interpret these drawings for their particular religious, political, or developmental significance-- like many have done.

I do not accept this pathetic cop-out as an answer. What are they communicating? Second request.

155.

Clem

June 1, 2008, 11:57 PM

Opie,

"Most of the reverence we hold for these paintings is due to their age. I'm not arguing against their visual characteristics, but that this isn't really what makes us treasure them. It is their historical context and the fact that they remain which largely shapes how we see them"

I already said that I was pushing it with this argument. I'm not going to give a percentage breakdown, but just say that visual characteristics and historical context both weigh in on how we judge artistic quality.

"Then when I said "Their reputation depends on their quality as art, coupled with their antiquity"you said "As I said, I don't disagree with the first part of this. I'm just insisting on the necessity of the second"

This does need clarification-- but I don't see how it's a contradiction (sorry, could you pinpoint where you're seeing this?). When I said that I agreed with the first part, I meant that visual characteristics obviously play into both their reputation and artistic quality. What I'm never going to buy is the idea that these visual characteristics are the only things that allow us to evaluate artistic quality. Maybe this puts it more clearly: visual quality contributes to, but does not, in and of itself, equal artistic quality.

Now,

"Then you said you were "glad to see that I seem to see" that the second part of my statement "was part of how we assess quality".

Is a poor paraphrase of:

"As I said, I don't disagree with the first part of this. I'm just insisting on the necessity of the second-- which I'm glad to see you seem to as well. The context in which we view art is never secondary, plain and simple. This is realistically part of how we assess quality."

Notice how you're skipping over the fact that I'm giving my take on quality in the last two sentences. Where do I say that you've included historical context as part of one's aesthetic judgment or assessment of quality? I was just glad that at the level of reputation, you were at least willing to consider its impact.

156.

opie

June 2, 2008, 4:48 AM

Clem, this has become a quagmire.

If you agree that the basic point of disagreement is located in our different descriptions of the process of assessing visual quality we may be able to start from there and proceed with a dialogue consisting of short questions and answers which stick faithfully to one subject at time. This is how debates are framed, in law, for example.

However several threads ago I tried several diffrent ways to get you into such a specific discussion and you avoided it like poison. (Remember the "taste of salt"?) I do not want to do this again. It is a waste of time.

157.

george

June 2, 2008, 4:50 AM

I said in comment #112.

How do you account for overlapping tastes between people?

Where there is common ground about some art and disagreement about other art. Who is right?

The culture is right, it decides what to keep and what to discard.

Artworks which are considered by the culture to be relevant and important are consciously preserved by the culture, everything else has to fare for itself.

An assessment of 'quality' is part of what the culture considers when determining what is relevant and important, but it is not the only metric.

-----------

For the most part I am in agreement with Clem's comment #150, hence my Touché in 151. This board exhibits an amazing lack of curiosity and acts as if it has all the answers. I would suggest not.

Since I started reading this blog, this same discussion has been going around, and around, and around, in circles without ever coming to any useful conclusions. It's a dreamworld, slowly becoming a nightmare. No one cares.

158.

george

June 2, 2008, 4:55 AM

In [155] but just say that visual characteristics and historical context both weigh in on how we judge artistic quality.

Is anyone suggesting this is false, incorrect, or not what happens?

159.

opie

June 2, 2008, 5:00 AM

I am saying it is false, George, but I would have to rephrase the question to fully support that assertion, and I have to go to class right now.

Franklin are those Egyption pix paintings or petroglyphs? This prehistoric art matter is really interesting.

160.

george

June 2, 2008, 5:35 AM

It doesn't really matter, rephrase it or not. The key word is "we" which I am going to interpret, not as Opie, or Franklin, or George, or Clem, but as the collective "we" the culture.

I am not arguing that some artworks are not better than others, I agree that 'quality' exists.

What I would suggest is that what we consider "good" is historically contextual, that what is considered "good" at one point in history may not be in a different historical era. Pollocks drip paintings would not have been considered "good" in 1893, what happened between 1893 and 1953 or 2003 that changed our mind? What, there were no Pollock drip paintings in 1893? Why of course, in 1893 Pollock's drip paintings would have been considered crap and never come from the stick.

In the past, Opie has made disparaging remarks about contemporary art, labeling it as "1950's surrealism" or some other pejorative. I'm assuming that opie hates Surrealism, and considers it all inferior, as the reasons for this point.

But, there is also the inference that the disparaged artworks were rehashing something which had been already explored in the past, and I think this is a valid point. In local history, roughly the histories of our lifetimes, or of a generation, the culture will ignore artworks which rehash achievements of the recent past. Regardless of their quality, they suffer from lack of attention because the culture does not view them as important. They languish in obscurity.

161.

opie

June 2, 2008, 6:17 AM

Your assumption is wrong, George. I don't "hate" any class of art. I think some works of art are better than others after I have seen them. That's it, period.

I am not interested in catagories except as aids to understanding in particular circumstances. I have made disparaging references as you point out and in those cases I may be at fault for not explaining myself fully.

The first problem here is the "collective we". This is called the consensus. It is what happens to a work of art (or an artist's work, although that is less sound) after a period if public consideration. It is not esthetic assessment, it is opinion based on many esthetic assessments.

I am only interested in discussing the esthetic assessment of an individual, because that is the basis of overall assessment. If you do not agree with this premise let me know and we can drop the discussion.

I would like our responses to be as short as possible.

162.

george

June 2, 2008, 6:28 AM

It's "my way or the highway" esthetics, bullshit.

163.

opie

June 2, 2008, 6:31 AM

I don't understand what you mean. Aren't we discussing esthetic assessment? If not, what?

And how can we discuss anything at all reasonably with this kind of response?

164.

george

June 2, 2008, 6:33 AM

It is all about the consensus.

Not necessarily todays consensus but the cultural consensus over time.

Good art gains the attention of the consensus.

The whole point of new modernism is to influence the consensus, if that is what you guys are trying to do, good art or not.

165.

opie

June 2, 2008, 6:36 AM

So much for that discussion.

166.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 8:30 AM

Opie,

Things keep being a quagmire when you say that I'm being inconsistent, contradictory, or that I've mischaracterized what you've said, without properly supporting these charges. Now regarding "salt" and other sensory experiences, I did provide arguments and support to show how they are shaped not only by biology (which itself varies), but also social context and individual experience. Both of us need to give the other some credit for reasonably making and defending a case, even if disagreement continues.

Franklin,

"Watch closely: Here is an image of some paintings found in northern Egypt that are likely about the same age as the works at Lascaux. They're pretty good for this sort of thing, but they have nothing on the Chinese Horse when it comes to artistry. There, that wasn't so hard"

I hate to put it this way, but you don't get it. Where have I argued that visual differences can't be compared, evaluated, or ranked? Like I responded to Opie, "artistic quality" is not determined solely on this basis. In the single experience of looking at either of these works, you include both their visual characteristics and their contexts in how you see them.

"No, I'm seeing visual similarities between two types of work, and I'm far from being the only one. Before I felt sure you have no eye. Now I'm not sure if you even have visual experiences."

Do you know what "ahistorical" means? Let me help you:

"Without concern for history or historical development; indifferent to tradition"

Your original argument was using the visual analysis of one tradition to make a comparison to another. It was referential, which makes it decidedly historical.

"If you distinguish between visual quality and importance, then artistic quality is all visual characteristics.

Nope. I realize this is still a point of fundamental disagreement, but Art communicates visually-- it is the quality of this visual communication (neither simply the quality of the visuality, or simply the message) which we judge.

"Art must have traits or there'd be nothing to look at, but the traits themselves have no quality. If they did, it would be very easy to make great art - just use those traits"

This again is your straw-man. When has anyone here taken an "anything goes" approach? I'm not abandoning quality, just looking for it amongst the execution of different traits and how we experience them.

"I just meant that your earlier entry on "panjective" was too speculative to both bringing up in this argument.

That's what you meant by saying ...until he makes a worthwhile case for determining superior "charges" or "templates" then I'm not going to buy into his "panjective"? Disingenuous bullshit"

Your entry on the subject does read like crazy talk to me. But you're right that I should address it in terms of its arguments. I just don't think that's going to help us much here.

"I'll defend anything I wrote"


Well then,

"A few years ago I saw a Douglas Gordon exhibition. I thought it was puerile, and I responded with an experience of irritation akin to suffering the presence of an obnoxious five-year-old. As art, it sucked. I want quality"

Am I going to argue against your reaction? Of course not. But it does not follow that your "irritation" objectively indicates a lack of quality. Maybe you just don't "get it"...

And then,

"I was at the Broad collection at MOCA last month and I can tell you that quality is far from a lot of minds in the art world".

That's yet another pretty substantive critique...

"I do not accept this pathetic cop-out as an answer. What are they communicating? Second request."

Horsies. Happy?

167.

opie

June 2, 2008, 8:40 AM

Clem, This he-said she-said is a waste of time. if you or George care to discuss a specific point, with short comments and sticking to the subject, I will be happy to do so, any time, and I'm sure Franklin and others would concur.

State a position and let's talk abhout it.

168.

roy

June 2, 2008, 8:56 AM

Can we distinguish between form and content? If so, then I would argue form is objective and content is subjective. Somebody ordered a quagmire...large, no bullshit, with extra clarity, right?

169.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 9:15 AM

"Clem, This he-said she-said is a waste of time."

Maybe you should have thought of that before you embarked on #153. Need I also remind you that you threatened to shut down the conversation unless I specifically cited Ahab's misuse of "is/ought".

But I agree that we can be a little more specific in this discussion:

http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/jeffwall/image/roomguide/rm6_invisible_lrg.jpg

How do you both experience and evaluate quality in a work like this? Does Wall's artistic merit (or failure) lie only in the visual characteristics and technique of his work? How can you possibly exclude his remaining "traits" from an assessment of his artistic quality?

170.

opie

June 2, 2008, 9:28 AM

I see a picture, but what is the work? A big photograph?

171.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 9:37 AM

"After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue
(1999–2000)
Transparency in lightbox 1740 x 2505 mm"

172.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 9:51 AM

Horsies. Happy?

Almost. Why is blue opposite orange on the color wheel for pigment? Second request.

173.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 9:53 AM

Clemson (forget "Clem" unless your given name is Clement, which I doubt), though I owe you no explanation of any kind for anything, either you missed my point re conflict of interests or you deliberately misconstrued or evaded it. If you are part of the art establishment, as several here suspect, that's highly relevant. If you're not, say so (which curiously enough, you haven't done). Nobody's asking for you real identity or occupation. If our suspicions are unfounded, you have nothing to lose by putting them to rest. I can claim to have no such conflict of interests because I have no connection to the system, now or ever.

As for bias, don't make me laugh (and I don't mean "chuckle"). Are you implying that you, St. Clement the Immaculate, have no bias? Please. Of course, if by bias you were to mean that I have my own taste, opinions and beliefs, make my own judgments and stick by them, then you'd better believe I'm "biased," and not even remotely ashamed of it.

And please, stop trying to distort what I said about Art Basel. I was relying on exhaustive and painful firsthand experience from the immediately preceding several years' worth of Basels, plus the opinions of people I knew to to be reliable artwise, plus many photos taken of representative works on show. "Media coverage" of the arts is generally shitty, and I never rely on that. But enough about Basel already. Talk about bad faith.

And George (151), were you going French on Clemson, or did you misspell "tush," as in ass? That would have been more apt.

174.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 10:11 AM

Franklin,

You don't need to explain basic color theory, including complementary colors to me. You do need to explain how the physics of color relate to an assessment of quality or how "similar style and economy of execution" don't relate to a specific historical reference. It's a small part of my critique, but you used the term "ahistorical" and it didn't make a lick of sense. So own up to it.

Jack,

I don't need to distort what you said, it's pettiness is evident:

"Well, Marc, I certainly hope you only set foot in such a place when it's free. That's my general policy here in Miami. It's bad enough to be offended or disappointed in a venue explicitly supposed to provide the opposite sort of experience, but paying for it is undignified, not to say demeaning (it could also qualify as masochistic, but true masochists enjoy pain).

You should hear me cackle maniacally when I get the occasional letter from such an outfit asking me to spring for an annual membership. It'd make the witch in the Wizard of Oz run for cover. That's why this past winter, when the Art Basel circus came through town, I skipped anything that charged admission, including the main venue. The satisfaction that gave me was probably greater than that I would have gotten from seeing most of the stuff I thus missed"

I'm still waiting on your replies to #169. Second request.

175.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 10:13 AM

You don't need to explain basic color theory, including complementary colors to me.

I am not convinced that you have visual experiences. Why is blue opposite orange on the color wheel for pigment? Third request.

176.

opie

June 2, 2008, 10:15 AM

So it is a transpartencey on a lightbox, (exhibited vertically, I suppose), about 6x7 feet, presumably having some sort of illustrational relationship to the Ellison book.

I can't estimate its effectiveness as an illustration because I haven't read the book. It certainly would be impressive to see a photographic transparency that size, and it seems to be very well made. I would say that the subject matter is interesting and eccentric but from my experience with photographs it seems like nothing special visually, or pictorially.

That would be my take.

177.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 10:32 AM

Lame attempt, Clemson. I'm sure it's useless to reiterate that my decision to stop enabling bad art with my money, for which I do not apologize, was reached after years of more or less religiously going to practically every show within driving range, as if I'd been morally obligated to do so. I paid my dues, in spades, and when the yield turned oout to be far too low for much too long, I figured enough was enough. You want to call that petty? Knock yourself out.

You're still studiously avoiding the conflict of interests issue, which has nothing to do with Art Basel or myself, and still failing to explicitly deny that our suspicions are on target. Care to comment?

178.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 10:43 AM

Whoa. This comment thread, like the others, has gone off the deep end. I have no interest in most of it -- it is "he said/she said bullshit," as someone wrote earlier -- but I don't feel I have a side. I mostly agree with the Usual Suspects -- OP, Jack, et al -- but I find points on both sides. Mostly I think everyone is talking past everyone else and that's why we're not getting anywhere. Over the past twenty years of working with threaded discussions I've learned that it's mostly impossible for one person to maintain any kind of consistent through-line of thought as the conversation splinters into a million spidery slivers.

I'd like to try to keep up my end of the conversation with Clem, though, which I think has been staying close to one topic without breaking up.

Clem sez:
I was pretty sure that Yasumasa Morimura was a perfect example of the sort of one trick pony that you had complained earlier about. What I was interested in why was this was such a problem. Is it that the idea lacks quality? And if so, shouldn't this be secondary to NewMo's emphasis on visual quality? Not that I'm sure you can't find fault there either : )

You're absolutely right: I am guilty, at times, of not looking closely for visual quality because something about the piece pissed me off before I could get that far. However, I'd note that I firmly believe a piece with true visual quality would most likely grab me before I had a chance to get pissed off.

Example: I mentioned Nicola Verlato in my list of artists I like. Believe me when I tell you if I'd only seen the works online I wouldn't have listed Verlato. Also believe me that, if you'd described the concept of the show I saw before I saw it, I'd have probably skipped the show after mocking it intensely. I mean, Verlato paints his model/muse/wife/girlfriend/porn star in various states of undress in huge overpopulated canvases corresponding to scenes from The Wizard of Oz. Omigod, I think I'm gonna puke!

And yet when I turned the corner at Stux and saw A New Era Is Coming I almost came right in my pants. No joke. Not because the painting is sexy -- it's actually sort of bizarre and twisted -- and certainly not because it has Yoda in the lower left corner, which is the kind of detail that would send me howling to my blog to vent venom in wholesale quantities. No -- the entire painting just grabbed me by the balls. Can't explain it. In fact it's kind of embarrassing to admit. But it just did.

That all said, and adding that I haven't seen Morimura's work in person and therefore probably shouldn't judge, still, I think he's a dickwad. No visual quality, no talent, no worth, except perhaps one could get a few cents for the basic minerals one could render from his corpse.

Some Jeff Wall, if you haven't found these already...

I did find the Jeff Wall stuff. I didn't want to get into it because I can't really tell if the work would be good in person. It might be. I generally don't respond to photography -- in fact, when I read Franklin's post on how photography isn't art I actually agreed with most of it, but he meant it as an April Fool -- so I doubt I'd like it much.

Then George sez:
The culture is right, it decides what to keep and what to discard.

Artworks which are considered by the culture to be relevant and important are consciously preserved by the culture, everything else has to fare for itself.

An assessment of 'quality' is part of what the culture considers when determining what is relevant and important, but it is not the only metric.


I agree with you here, although I'd argue that the culture isn't always right. Still, it's all we've got -- it's kind of hard to go back and find the art the culture didn't preserve, since it wasn't preserved. Some few things survive in spite of being lost -- cave paintings, bits of the Sphinx, unpopular paintings in people's attics -- but, mostly, we have to take the culture at its word.

I'd also say that, since the decision of the culture is made up of individual decisions, over time, it's important that we make our personal decisions with some care. Particularly, we need to focus on what we consider relevant and important. We NewMos (or whatever) are trying to drag as many people away from other traits back towards visual quality. So, George, when you say we're trying to influence the consensus, I'd say you're right.

However...

What I would suggest is that what we consider "good" is historically contextual...

Here I think you're wrong. I think Pollock's drip paintings would have visual quality in any era, and would be recognized as having such by someone with taste in any era.

However...

What governs whether those paintings could be made at a given time is outside of visual quality; and what governs whether those paintings could be shown at a given time is outside visual quality. Because there are always other factors in what art gets shown -- nepotism, favoritism, money, fame, infamy, the zeitgeist, whatever whatever whatever. So that even if Pollock's drip paintings could have been made in 1893, they might not have made it to be shown to enough people of taste.

I mean, one of those things which makes me sad, in a ruminative kind of way, is when I think that it's possible the greatest violinist who has ever lived could be a Yanomami tribeswoman who will never see a violin in her life.

So I don't think what a person of taste would consider good is historically contextual at all, but the historical context does come into play regarding what objects get offered up to people of taste.

179.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 10:45 AM

Franklin,

"I am not convinced that you have visual experiences"

Nice.

What do you want, that they accentuate one another, what happens when you combine them? Do you want to delve into the inadequacies of simplistic color theory? Quit it with the condescension already and answer some direct questions yourself.

Opie,

I appreciate your reply, but to me this reads like you're skirting around the issue and my specific questions.

Does "its effectiveness as an illustration", "that it's well made", and it's interesting or eccentric subject matter play into its overall artistic quality? Or is your assessment that "it seems like nothing special visually, or pictorially" solely determine it's artistic quality?

180.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 10:48 AM

I want to know why you think blue and orange are complements on the color wheel for pigment. Fourth request.

181.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 10:50 AM

"The culture is right, it decides what to keep and what to discard" (#157)

The culture can be quite wrong for long stretches, as in a couple of centuries. Medieval art was in the doghouse a long while. Vermeer was forgotten till the latter 19th century. Caravaggio was dismissed as decadent for a similar period, and so on. The opposite but equivalent situation, work being highly overrated and later dramatically devalued, has also happened repeatedly.

So how can one be sure the culture has finally gotten it right? One can't, not really, certainly not always. That's why we, or rather each of us individually, should decide for himself, always. That's why, when the prevailing "culture" and I disagree, it's no contest. I'm in this art thing for myself. It's between me and the work, period.

So George (#162), if you don't think I should do it "my way," you can start heading for the highway right now.

182.

opie

June 2, 2008, 10:56 AM

I don't think "effectiveness as an illustration" or the nature of the subject matter are esthetic assessments. "Well made", or whatever the factors that made me decide that it was well made, probably would be part of my appraisal. The "nothing special" would be the bulk ot if.

183.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 11:55 AM

In 158, George seems to find it incredible that anyone might question that visual characteristics and historical context both weigh in on how we judge artistic quality.

Believe it, George. The fact something may hold true for some people is their business, of course, but that doesn't make it true for everybody.

It goes without saying that the quality of art from any period is inevitably variable, though things may well be skewed by the selective survival or preservation of presumably superior works from more remote eras. If any given work from any historical context is weak, mediocre, inferior or banal as visual art, it makes no difference when it was made.

If somebody shows me the equivalent of run-of-the-mill kindergarten stick drawings, I'm not going to be impressed artwise, even if they happen to be prehistoric cave drawings from anywhere. That they may have significant interest or value for other, non-art reasons is a separate matter.

And how do I (again, what others do is their affair) judge the value or quality of something, anything, from any historical period, as visual art? Based on my visual judgment, or my eyes. Hence the million crucifixion paintings made over several centuries, only a small percentage of which are great as art, and the obvious difference in artistic quality between the Lascaux cave work and the Egyptian horse outlines Franklin linked.

Admittedly, experience and educating one's eye play a role, especially with relatively "alien" historical and/or cultural contexts. When I first started looking at Japanese colored woodblock prints, they were all jumbled together, and all sorts of nuances and subtleties were lost on me. The more I saw and looked and compared, the more obvious the differences became, even within the oeuvre of the same artist. I became increasingly perceptive or discerning, increasingly critical or analytical, and increasingly demanding, even regarding technical aspects such as printing quality, color preservation and so on.

In other words, I now clearly, definitely and routinely discriminate between different Japanese prints from the same historical context and period, and I do it based on visual criteria. But yes, as the disclaimers say in those diet or plastic surgery commercials, results may vary for different individuals, especially if they approach the matter differently--either with different methods or different goals.

184.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 1:09 PM

Franklin,

What are you trying to tease out of me here?

"Why is blue opposite orange on the color wheel for pigment"

As I said, because they're complimentary colors. What makes them complimentary? The physics, the relationship between their particular hues. Is that what you're waiting for? And if so, how does that bear on the particular criticism I was making of your argument? I'm not trying to be snarky, but I'm wondering how this relates to my criticism.

Opie,

"I don't think "effectiveness as an illustration" or the nature of the subject matter are esthetic assessments".

Can you explain your reasoning a bit more here? Why don't these "traits" constitute aesthetic experience & judgment?

Just to be clear, I disagree pretty strongly with your suggestion that visually this work is "nothing special" anyhow, but I'm more interested in what you're excluding from this judgment for the moment.

Chris,

Sometimes I think that our basic disagreement here is precisely due to the different things that "grab [us] by the balls" : )

It seems like visual technique and form is what grabs a lot of "the regulars" here, while personally it's visual content , ideas, and context that move and inspire me. I've never said that visual quality doesn't exist, or isn't worthwhile or meaningful in art, just that it's not the only thing by which we judge artistic quality.

There have been a couple of comments that seem to imply that the art world has opened up too much. That everything from amateurishness and available means, politics and intellectualization, have opened the flood gates for poor quality. I think that it moreso a matter of finding particular levels of quality in these developing areas, than dismissing them, that is more helpful. Ahab quoted from a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery on photographic pictorialism, which I also attended. I was very interested in how movements and techniques likes these coalesced, as photographers sought the status of art for their particular medium. I think that the general criticism of conceptual, textual, and video art that has come up here may highlight a type of criticism and struggle for artistic legitimacy.

I'd be interested in hearing why you feel that way about photography, but maybe that's steering off course a bit too much!

185.

opie

June 2, 2008, 1:22 PM

Clem, you ask " Why don't these "traits" constitute aesthetic experience & judgment?"

"Traits" are traits. They cannot be experience or judgement.

Perhaps you mean something else?

186.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 1:37 PM

Alright,

We experience and judge a work's he "traits". For me it's their sum that constitutes overall artistic quality. One specific "trait" that I was focusing on in my question was the illustrative aspect of this particular work. I'd also include the mise-en-scene as a "trait". Are you saying that I'm misapplying the term "trait" here? Even if you are, I'm interested as to why you'd exclude these in an assessment of artistic quality.

187.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 1:38 PM

uh, i wasn't meaning to engender traits. not that there aren't he-traits! : )

188.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 1:38 PM

Clem sez:
It seems like visual technique and form is what grabs a lot of "the regulars" here, while personally it's visual content , ideas, and context that move and inspire me.

I think the argument really is deeper than that: I (and the regulars here, I believe) are interested in visual quality that moves us. We're not interested in ideas or context that move us. We believe that visual art is specifically good at being visually moving, and not especially good at being intellectually stimulating, or conceptually stimulating.

It's the difference between tasting salt and having saltiness described to you. It's obvious that words do not transmit the sensation of saltiness very well. I think we've proved that. So we'd say that saltiness is something one shouldn't spend a lot of time writing about, since it clearly doesn't work. Or, as Rabo Karabekian said in Vonnegut's Bluebeard, telling someone who can paint to describe a scene in words is like telling a world-class chef to make a Thanksgiving dinner out of ball bearings and broken glass.

So what we're saying is, finally: Yes, you can find interesting ideas in art. You can find intriguing concepts. You can lose yourself in exploring a given work's context. But ultimately all of those are necessarily secondary to a work's visual quality because ideas, concepts, and contexts have better, more comprehensive media in which to experience them, while the visual has no better media.

When I talk about art that grabs me by the balls, I mean it almost literally. I mean a purely physical sensation caused by viewing the work of art. And when I say physical, I'm not being metaphorical. I feel it in my body. If that doesn't happen -- and it doesn't happen most of the time -- then I can explore thoughts about the work, including ideas, concepts, context, and so forth. Because those are verbally-mediated thoughts, they're incapable of grabbing me in any physical way.

What I'm trying to say is, our differences, Clem, are not about which aspects of a work grab us -- it's about whether we get grabbed at all. When we say we doubt you've really experienced art, we're saying it's as if we're trying to explain orgasms to someone who's never had one, and you're saying that you must've had one, since you shake hands with people all the time.

If a work of art makes you think, "Hm, that is an interesting idea," then you didn't have an orgasm.

189.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 1:42 PM

I went back and read the original post of NewMo. If you want to replace "traits" with "functions" then so be it.

190.

opie

June 2, 2008, 1:59 PM

Clem, I said "the natrure of the subject matter is not an esthetic assessment". It is one of the ingredients presented for assessment.

Nothing is "rejected" when appraising a work. I see and recognize the subject matter here and take it into account. Neither I nor anyone else - to my recollection - has said anything different here. All we have been saying, over and over again, is that content is merely part of the stuff of judgement. It is not good in itself.

191.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:01 PM

Chris,

Somehow I knew that we'd get back to orgasms sooner or later! Different things get different people hot & bothered. Let's not start talking about who has the most "genuine" route of arriving at pleasure, or who feels it the strongest. Some pleasure is instantaneous, some isn't. Visuality persay doesn't have a lockhold on pleasure, which is why aesthetics isn't limited to seeing and neither is the concept of art. Do I really need to make a case for how thoughts or context can be stimulating?

192.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:04 PM

"The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art"

193.

george

June 2, 2008, 2:07 PM

Here I think you're wrong. I think Pollock's drip paintings would have visual quality in any era, and would be recognized as having such by someone with taste in any era.

No. First they would have never been made, or picked up off the floor and saved as anything other than a curiosity because in the cultural context of 1893 there was no room for them as art, regardless of how pretty they might be.

Even today, there are a number of artists who reject Pollock's drip paintings as junk.

There may be a very sound psychological reason why people have a difficult time accepting them as art. They appear random and are therefore considered accidental, lucky drips, or rotting paint on a wall, or the striations of a rock outcropping, all are less influenced by the human hand, hence less artistic, regardless of how beautiful they may be.

194.

opie

June 2, 2008, 2:11 PM

It is difficuly to see how "ideas" can be presented as art. An idea is a mental construction. If the idea is somehow embedded in words or physical reality or (God knows how) in music. then, once again, it is presented for esthetic (or other) appraisal.

195.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:20 PM

Opie,

How is thinking any less bodily than sight? Or how is seeing not a "mental construction"?

And don't you think that there can be visual ideas-- not ideas about the visual, but ideas that are expressed visually?

Another question (to the group):

"Modernists make visual art for visual reasons"

What are "visual reasons"? Maybe distinguish these from other possible motivations.

196.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 2:21 PM

The physics, the relationship between their particular hues.

I was looking for whether you thought that their position on the color wheel had a linguistic or historical basis. This conversation would have ended forthwith. I agree, it's physics. (Specifically, since blue is a primary, if you mix the other primaries, you get orange. Since this similarly true for the other primaries and conversely true for the secondaries, it makes sense to arrange the wheel like so. That or something like it would have been a hardcore visual answer.)

With that out of the way, I can address a more important contention: "horsies" is self-evidently not a communication. If the original artists wanted to communicate something, which is reasonable but by no means assured, it's not to us. I don't value them as communication. I value them as paintings, and they're lovely. Everything else is gravy.

197.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 2:23 PM

Clem sez:
Let's not start talking about who has the most "genuine" route of arriving at pleasure, or who feels it the strongest.

That's just it. No one here is saying our particular route is the most genuine or strongest. We're just saying ours is visual. Ideas are great. Ideas are stimulating. One can have the idea-equivalent of an orgasm. But one thing ideas are not is visual. They're ideas.

Art, meanwhile, is visual. Painting is visual. Sculpture is visual. You don't rub your cheek against the Mona Lisa, you look at it. You don't read a Jackson Pollock painting, you look at it. You don't climb a Caro, you look at it. Maybe later you read a book on it. Maybe later you read the little essay on the wall next to it. Maybe you've got those museum headphones on and you listen to a lecture about it. But what it's for is to be looked at.

What we're saying here, over and over, is if an art object fails at that level -- if it's not worth looking at -- then all the other levels don't matter, or don't matter a whole lot. Because you can get all those other levels from the book, essay, or lecture -- without looking.

198.

VIS

June 2, 2008, 2:26 PM

Just curious how this blog got dovetailed in to my website "more like this" information on Google.

Interesting dialog none the less.

199.

george

June 2, 2008, 2:30 PM

I was looking for whether you thought that their position on the color wheel had a linguistic or historical basis.

"blue" and "orange" mean different things in different cultures, look it up.

Really, their is no color wheel, it is just one of the several constructs devised by artist-scientists to describe a color system. NYU had an exhibition about 10 years ago of the various color chart original artwork by the famous guys.

Color does is not easily squashed into a neat box, the best description is one of the Cie-xyz type color spaces which look a bit like a lumpy potato.

200.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:37 PM

Franklin, there's not a comparable physics of quality or style. this is an is/ought problem again.

Re: Horsies. Even representing 'em is communication that takes place visually. It's irrelevant whether we're the intended audience or not, it's still apparent that they function as signs. This function is a part of their worth. Why section off this aspect by saying you only prize them as paintings. What do these paintings do? Why? And how well? This is a more inclusive approach to assessing quality.

I'm just going to sit tight for a moment and wait on some replies to #195.

201.

opie

June 2, 2008, 2:41 PM

George:The lumpy potato is the visualization of the Munsell color system, which in fact squeezes color into a box, albeit not a neat one.

Clem: I guess thinking and sight are both "bodily" and perhaps "mental constructions" but so what? For there to be art there must be something to perceive. If "ideas" are "expressed visually" they are visible and can be a subject for seeing.

202.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:41 PM

Just a quick follow-up to #195.

I tend to think that some ideas are best articulated, explored, or experienced visually. What Opie said about Caro's figurative work and "somatic states" might be a fine example.

203.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 2:44 PM

But I guess I need to be careful about what I'm calling content or ideas as compared to Opie's example...

204.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 2:46 PM

...we're saying it's as if we're trying to explain orgasms to someone who's never had one, and you're saying that you must've had one, since you shake hands with people all the time.

Thwunk! Bullseye.

How is thinking any less bodily than sight? Or how is seeing not a "mental construction"?

Thinking is no less bodily than any other thing we do. But seeing is not a mental construction in the way that ideas are mental constructions. This is a tangential concern to ideas having no value as art.

And don't you think that there can be visual ideas-- not ideas about the visual, but ideas that are expressed visually?

Sure - we call it illustration. I'm a big fan.

What are "visual reasons"? Maybe distinguish these from other possible motivations.

Sample visual reasons:

"My wife standing there in the light like that would make a nice painting."

"When I get to the studio I'm going to mix some phthalo green and a fingerful of napthol red with some white and a pile of gel medium and smear it all over that painting I haven't been so happy about with a fucking broom. That'll fix it."

"I just got this Balthus book and I love how he paints these nudes in a way that looks simultaneously Picassoid and Medieval. I'd like to try that, but my way."

Sample non-visual reason, from the dependably unreadable Brian Sholis:

"The recognition dawns that Fischer and Brown have concocted a surprisingly subtle meditation on the many lives of artworks, and its presentation in a secondary-market gallery owned by a man once arrested for defiling Picasso’s Guernica—as depicted on the exhibition’s announcement poster—raises similar questions about the many lives of those of us who engage with them."

(I've been thinking of starting a clicheed-jargon-watch feature on Artblog.net. His concluding sentence inspires me to do so: "That such canny, simple gestures seem so refreshing is a gentle rebuke to the ossified conventions to which we all unthinkingly subscribe." Blorck.)

205.

george

June 2, 2008, 2:47 PM

"Modernists make visual art for visual reasons"

Shirley your joking, some body actually said that?

This board is proof there is no visual reason.

Gag me with a pallet knife

206.

anon

June 2, 2008, 2:50 PM

"Recently I saw a show from a Chinese artist."

Chris, LEE HYUNGKOO is Korean.

207.

opie

June 2, 2008, 2:50 PM

Clem #202 you are hypothesizing a work of art as a kind of singular precipitation of an "idea". But there is no such thing. Works of art are the product of a cumulative series of hundreds of ideas and judgements.

I suppose a singular idea might be expressed verbally, such as "I say nuke the whole damn country".

208.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 2:53 PM

Shirley your joking, some body actually said that?

I did, on a post upon which you commented. Again, how soon we forget...

209.

opie

June 2, 2008, 2:55 PM

Franklin is "Blorck" a name or an expression of disgust?

210.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 2:56 PM

That would be disgust. A sound effect, if you will.

211.

opie

June 2, 2008, 3:01 PM

Well, I think the Keeper of the Royal Cllche on Artblog ought to be "Blorck" , the faithful Wordservant.

212.

george

June 2, 2008, 3:22 PM

well, it sounded stupid then, sounds stupid now, sorry but I don't buy into any of this.

213.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 3:29 PM

Opie,

"Clem #202 you are hypothesizing a work of art as a kind of singular precipitation of an "idea". But there is no such thing. Works of art are the product of a cumulative series of hundreds of ideas and judgements"

What the heck do you mean by the first part of this? Where in that post do I touch on, let alone oppose the last?

"For there to be art there must be something to perceive. If "ideas" are "expressed visually" they are visible and can be a subject for seeing."

So you perceive visual ideas, seeing being an interplay of the visual with the ideational.

Franklin,

"Thinking is no less bodily than any other thing we do. But seeing is not a mental construction in the way that ideas are mental constructions. This is a tangential concern to ideas having no value as art"

Then make a case for this difference.

"And don't you think that there can be visual ideas-- not ideas about the visual, but ideas that are expressed visually?

Sure - we call it illustration. I'm a big fan"

What's the difference between illustration and art then?

I'm going to have to look at your examples in a bit....

214.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 3:38 PM

well, it sounded stupid then, sounds stupid now, sorry but I don't buy into any of this.

So it sounded stupid then, except that you didn't remember anyone saying it at the time. You sound pretty stupid at the moment.

Then make a case for this difference.

Ideas can be encoded into materials. Seeing takes place in the body.

What's the difference between illustration and art then?

Illustration is a subset of art that makes visual representations of ideas.

215.

opie

June 2, 2008, 3:51 PM

Clem, you said "I tend to think that some ideas are best articulated, explored, or experienced visually". What else was I to think?

But, please, don't answer that. If we go off on this tangent we will lose sight of the discussion once again.

The "so you perceive..." sentence made no sense to me. What I said in the first place was very clear. I do not really know what a "visual idea" is, but it might be something like what Franklin mentioned. Ideas in the head are not art. Ideas which lead to or are somhow part of a work of art are part of the content, which in turn can be appraised as art.

This is so rudimentry it is painful to go it over again and again!

Why are "ideas" so damned important anyway? There seems to be some underlying sentiment that "ideas" are scared cows of some sort. Ideas are just ideas. Most of them are not very interesting or useful and are much better off staying in the dim brains that originated them.

216.

opie

June 2, 2008, 3:56 PM

I know, I know. "scared cows". Maybe Blorck can go find them.

217.

Franklin

June 2, 2008, 4:17 PM

Everybody stop commenting for a moment...

Okay, resume. George, I believe you were telling me how astute I am.

218.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 4:39 PM

Sorry. Hyungkoo Lee is indeed Korean. I got confused, what with all the Chinese artists being shown in Chelsea these days, especially at Stux. For some reason, Lee's show stuck in my head as being at Stux, too, although it wasn't.

I'd probably have picked up that Lee is Korean if he'd spelled his name in three parts. Back in high school, when I was surrounded by Asians of all types, I learned to tell who was who. Useful and respectful to do so. But it's been a long time since high school and I'm out of practice. Out here where I live now, I need to start telling Eastern Europeans apart. Polish or Ukrainian? Ukrainian or Belarusian? Croatian? Damn.

One Russian guy said we're all Slavs (I'm partly of Polish descent myself) and so we're really all family, which I thought was awfully nice given that everyone over there's been killing each other for hundreds of years over who is who.

Anyway. I was totally in love with a Korean girl in high school, but we were just friends. These days she's still single, a million times more beautiful and successful than ever, and still unreachably far away from me. And now I've insulted her culture by confusing a Korean with a Chinese. I'm certainly going to some nasty corner of Hell.

219.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 4:49 PM

Opie,

"Ideas which lead to or are somhow part of a work of art are part of the content, which in turn can be appraised as art".

Well, that's refreshingly different from Franklin's contention of "ideas having no value as art"!

"I tend to think that some ideas are best articulated, explored, or experienced visually"

Some content is best visualized. Is that clearer?

220.

opie

June 2, 2008, 5:07 PM

Franklin was correct. When ideas are visualized they are no longer ideas. They are substance, or content.

Content is not content UNTIL it is visualized.

221.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 5:16 PM

"Franklin was correct. When ideas are visualized they are no longer ideas. They are substance, or content.

Content is not content UNTIL it is visualized"

My you're dodgy! Do ideas once visualized, or visual ideas, contribute to artistic quality?

222.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 5:17 PM

After a struggle, I'd just about talked myself into letting the last part of #157 go, but #205 changed my mind.

#157: "This board exhibits an amazing lack of curiosity and acts as if it has all the answers. I would suggest not. Since I started reading this blog, this same discussion has been going around, and around, and around, in circles without ever coming to any useful conclusions. It's a dreamworld, slowly becoming a nightmare. No one cares."

If no one cared, the discussion would hardly still be around. But more to the point, given such evident contempt for this allegedly nightmarish and useless board, why on earth are you still here, George? It's not as if you have nowhere else to hold forth. Surely there's something in Artblog for you. What? Or do you perchance cherish the hope that, if you stick around long enough, your presumed insight and discernment will somehow convert and redeem the benighted reprobates who currently can't stomach most of your pronouncements? If so, you're delusional, though I doubt you're even delusionally altruistic.

And you have the gall to ask me (or anyone, for that matter) why I, he or she might be here? Have you ever, just once, heard me trash this board the way you have repeatedly? Where the hell do you get off? And we're supposed to take your shit and still justify our presence to you? Do I need to tell you to fuck off, or is that redundant?

223.

opie

June 2, 2008, 5:29 PM

OK Clem, PLEASE don't make me say it again.

An idea, once visualized (although as I said I think this is an oversimplified description of a much more complex process) is part of content and can be appraised.

224.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 5:49 PM

Opie, Opie,

Indulge me one step further,

Appraised, as in contributes to artistic quality?

225.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 5:51 PM

BUT while an idea, once visualized, can be appraised as an idea, its visual quality is separate, and can be appraised as such separately. For example, the painter of the Chinese Horse may very well have wanted to communicate the idea of the Ideal Horse for the Making of Fermented Mare's Milk. The painting may be his visualization of that idea. We, who (mostly) don't care about fermented mare's milk, have no use for the idea. But we still are drawn to the painting because, visually, it's beautiful.

Meanwhile, those Egyptian drawings may have been scratched as an illustration of the idea of Big Scary Fucking Bison. Again, we don't care much about big scary bison; and, further, we don't really care much about the drawing, either, because it's crude and uninteresting -- visually speaking. An archaeologist might find them very interesting (there used to be bison in Egypt?).

226.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 5:52 PM

Clem sez:
Appraised, as in contributes to artistic quality?

No! Not to visual quality! Because the idea isn't visual!

227.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 6:12 PM

Regarding Clemson, I'm just going to sit tight for probably far longer than a moment and wait on some reply to the conflict of interests issue, which remains completely unaddressed, for what would appear to be no good, rational reason--unless, of course, Clemson has something to hide. Something like, oh, let's see...being an apparatchik of the system, a cog in the wheel, someone who promotes or defends the prevailing norms because he has vested interests in their prevalence.

If none of that is true, it should be the easiest and simplest thing in the world to come out and say so. If nothing else, it would improve Clemson's position here, however slightly, so there would be at least some gain and no conceivable loss. But If Clemson continues to play clam, well, what are we to think, except the worst?

228.

who clem is

June 2, 2008, 6:36 PM

Jack, why would anyone have to prove anything to you? Clem has provided a great deal of debate to this blog in the last couple weeks, and he shouldn't have to be put on trial, particularly by the likes of you, just for continuing to comment here. If you don't like what he says, that's one thing, but suggesting that his critique of Franklin's ideas is somehow suspect because he may be involved in the art world is total bullshit. Besides, everyone who comments here, except you, is an artist and/or makes their money through the art world in some way. I don't see you accusing OP of conflict of interest, but then you wouldn't. You two agree on things.

229.

Chris Rywalt

June 2, 2008, 7:01 PM

Usually I dislike anonymous commenters -- unlike Franklin, I don't think people occasionally have good reasons to hide their identities -- but I honestly don't care who Clem really is. He's fine.

230.

george

June 2, 2008, 7:23 PM

dear jack

get well soon

231.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 7:58 PM

Re 228, oh, dear. It seems I've hit a nerve. Good.

Nobody is asking for Clemson's real name, specific occupation, specific workplace or any other personally identifying information about him, especially if those things have no significant bearing on what he's trying to do here. If those things have no such bearing, why won't he say so and be done with it? What's to stop him? The fact he's saying nothing only arouses or strengthens suspicions that there's a hidden agenda or something fishy.

To put it another way, if he were actually, say, someone like Arthur Danto or Jeffrey Deitch (which I am not suggesting), or (far more plausibly) someone connected to an Edmonton or Alberta institution which has been heavily criticized by Canadian Artblog regulars on their Edmonton-based blog, you'd better believe that would be pertinent and relevant, and yes, you're damn right inquiring minds want (and expect) to know.

This is not like the situation with OP, since it's common knowledge to those who follow this blog that he's a painter of a certain vintage and teaches painting at the university level, just as we know of his close affiliation with and obvious affinity for the likes of Greenberg and Olitski. In other words, he's not some amorphous talking head of unknown provenance who can't and won't be "placed," which is precisely what Clemson is at this point. I, at least, want to have a reasonable idea as to whom and/or what I'm dealing with. Again, specific identifying information is not the issue. And yet again, if Clemson has nothing worth hiding, why won't he say anything?

232.

Jack

June 2, 2008, 8:03 PM

Re 229, I'd wish you the same , George, but I'm afraid you're beyond cure.

233.

who clem is

June 2, 2008, 9:28 PM

What is this? The McCarthy era? "Hidden agenda"? "Something fishy"? How about dealing with what has actually been brought up in this conversation, Jack. Grow up.

234.

opie

June 2, 2008, 9:31 PM

Clem no one here has ever said that anything clearly evident in any work of art is not an ingredient of the work of art which is subject to appraisal. Whether or not it "contributes" (or perhaps detracts from) the quality of the work would have to be judged separately.

it is also true that any distinguishable part (or anything at all, for that matter) can be presented as a work of art itself and therefore subject to esthetic appraisal.

However, no work of art is better because it contains a particular ingredient, whether it is red paint, a face, a crucifixion, or a reference to a Ralph Ellison book. Its "goodness" is perceived by individual appraisal of the whole.

Can we please let this rest?

235.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 10:34 PM

Artistic quality does not exist solely in terms of visual quality. Something can be of lesser visual quality and we can still see and be moved by other aspects of its artistic quality. Even Cultural conceptions of visual quality shift. If you want to see your taste, training, and experiences relating to art as based upon so-called objective factors, then you're fooling yourselves. All that NewMo's commitment to "visual quality" enacts is an opinion that degrades art which doesn't see itself in the same terms as you do. This is part of what makes art so interesting and vital. It isn't something fixed and defined in the first place, artists and culture constantly expand what art is capable of and how it is relevant.

I said much earlier that art's function is necessarily tied to communication. I'm willing to admit that this too essentializes and probably doesn't encompass all intentions or bodies of work. Maybe my bias lies in the fact that I can't fathom why one wouldn't create work which expresses ideas, moods, references, feelings, or even "somatic states". But if some of you want to claim that some art is meant to be "silent" or doesn't attempt to exchange anything, then I'm willing to back down on my own restrictive definition. After all, as I keep saying, NewMo's restrictive definition of quality is what has irked me from the beginning.

When I read Chris' comment that "an idea, once visualized, can be appraised as an idea, its visual quality is separate" it almost sounds like some kind of alchemy. What happens to the idea once it's been visualized? How come "the idea isn't visual" if some of you will admit to the concept of "visual ideas"? Opie complained about a sacred cow earlier, but I want to know why many of you seem to set against visuality including what is ideational-- as if it somehow pollutes it? How does the way than an idea plays itself out in visual art, becoming visual "content", mean that the idea has no bearing on a work's quality?

Maybe we can ground this conversation with reference to the particular Jeff Wall piece that I chose. I think his work is a good example of a visual idea. I personally think he excels in terms of both visual and conceptual quality. I'd suggest that both these aspects of his work are linked when one takes in a work like Invisible Man. In this case, artistic quality doesn't consist simply of experiencing either the quality of his photography or display. It also requires you to engage with what the work is doing with its visuality, which is to represent, enact, and even expand on an image from Ellis' novel. The extent to which one might engage in the work's conceptualism is of course up to the individual viewer. But even if you don't go down that path at all, you can't ignore it, claim that this isn't essential to Wall's artistry, or deny that it contributes to one's aesthetic experience and hence judgment of the work's quality.

236.

Clem

June 2, 2008, 10:36 PM

Opie,

I hadn't seen your last comment. It will indeed need to rest-- at least until tomorrow! : )

237.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 5:16 AM

Clem: We're saying that visual art can do without anything outside the visual. In fact, eventually it will do without anything outside the visual, because visual art outlasts all the baggage associated with it. To go back to the cave paintings: There's nothing left of the person or culture who produced them but the paintings themselves. Nothing left except what we can see.

So I believe, personally, that we need to discard anything that isn't visual. That means anything that can be explained to a blind man. In regards to Larry Wall's work, if I can say to a blind guy, "Remember that scene in Ralph Ellison's book? The photo relates to that," then that element of the work is inessential.

So once we discard all the inessential elements, what's left? That's what I'm interested in. I'm not saying you can't be interested in whatever you want. Feel free to revel in Wall's references to novels. That's your prerogative. Personally I think it's stupid. If I want to reference the novel, I'll read it. The ideas presented are much better there anyway.

If the work requires that I know about the novel to make any sense -- if the work has no quality or interest to anyone lacking that knowledge -- then I think the work is totally worthless. Because two hundred years from now, five hundred years from now, Ellison's novel may not exist.

Consider Bosch's paintings. We've lost the codebook to the images. There's a complex and involved symbolism behind Bosch's paintings which we can no longer decode, but which was clear to the viewers of the time. However, the paintings still captivate us because of their visual quality.

Whether Wall's work does this or not I can't say because I haven't seen it in person. I'd venture to say it doesn't, but I have to admit that's really unfounded.

238.

opie

June 3, 2008, 5:24 AM

Hercules had the Augean stables and we have Clem.

Hercules diverted whole rivers to accomplish his task. It was the greatest flush of all time. What would he advise here?

You know, Clem, you are like the art world itself. It is fascinating and it is deeply depressing. it is also a hard lesson in reality.

I could go on about please be specific and such and such makes no sense and please come to the point and all that, but really, what's the point? It's just kicking Jello all over again, isn't it?

239.

ahab

June 3, 2008, 6:01 AM

Which one is better, Clem?

Jeff Wall A

Jeff Wall B

240.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:04 AM

I dedicate this song to Opie and the jello kickers

241.

opie

June 3, 2008, 6:18 AM

That's funny, J. I'm going to quit this thankless art game and get my Jellokickers together and go out on tour.

242.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:21 AM

Maybe a few handshakes would work better than a kicking

243.

opie

June 3, 2008, 6:24 AM

You made your point. that was unnecessary.

244.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:25 AM

I do beg your pardon.

245.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:29 AM

Opie, what do you make of what Rothko said,

"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing."

246.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 6:30 AM

Oh, and Jack: I think you're pushing and you seem to be taking this conversation personally. Remember that, when someone pleads the Fifth, part of that is you're not allowed to hold it against them. You can't say "Your refusal to incriminate yourself is incriminating." It doesn't work like that.

Of course that's common law and not real life, but I think of common law as a handy guide to being fair. And it's fair to say, if Clem doesn't want to come out of the closet, we shouldn't claim that proves anything. Unlike most anonymous posters on most blogs, Clem at least is a consistent personality -- consistent across multiple blogs, I understand -- and isn't merely doing a cowardly drive-by. Maybe he's attempting a cowardly siege against Edmonton artists -- I wouldn't know -- but even if that's the case, it doesn't look like he's getting far. Certainly none of them has written anything to make themselves look bad. In fact I'd say that very little of what's been written -- and there's been a lot over the past couple of weeks -- has made anyone look really bad. The worst you can say is that we don't all agree with each other.

Believe me, for an online conversation, that's remarkable.

247.

roy

June 3, 2008, 6:45 AM

J, what do you think about what I said...

'It is a widely accepted notion among thinkers that it does not matter what one thinks as long as it is well thought. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good thinking about thinking.'

248.

opie

June 3, 2008, 6:46 AM

This is from a 1943 statement made by Rothko, Gottlieb and Newman published in the NY Times. It represents the feelings of certain artists who were taking great risks by making their art more abstract and drew on Jungian psychology to help find ways to justify this.

"Good painting about nothing" is vague enough to be interpreted a number of ways.

The text is:

1. To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks.

2. This world of imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.

3. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way not his way.

4. We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.

5. It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism.

There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.

We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.

249.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:49 AM

Yeah, I know. What do you make of that first bit of #5?

250.

roy

June 3, 2008, 6:50 AM

Good job opie. I was gonna add, that with my statement, you even have the benefit of a full context for what's been said. I knew that Rothko quote was a snippet from a larger text. It just sounds a bit silly in J's frame up.

251.

J.T. Kirkland

June 3, 2008, 6:54 AM

Clem,

I went down a similar road with these guys a few years back. In fact, I posted a long piece in response to some of these same ideas in December 2004 (http://thinkingaboutart.blogs.com/art/2004/12/meaning_in_art_.html). At the time, I would have definitely sided with you. But now, not so much. Allow me to explain.

While I don't necessarily like some of the work posted as related to NewMo, I definitely subscribe to the NewMo attitude as a working approach. In other words, I make visual art so therefore my work needs to operate first and foremost visually. It needs to strive for visual quality. But I am also interested in doing a bit more with the work and when I do, it operates secondary to the visual aspect of the work. This relates to how I view visual art...

If I am considering a piece as visual art, the first test, if you will, is whether or not I want to look at it. If so, I pull up a chair and enjoy the work and then allow all other aspects of the work to come to me. But if not, I ignore the other aspects of the work (concept, meaning, etc) and move on to something that does appeal to me.

I wanted to say many of the things that Chris already touched upon. I totally agree with him... everything required to appreciate a work of art should be contained within the work of art. The "Invisible Man" reference in Wall's photo is lost on me because I haven't read the book. Am I then unable to appreciate the work now? If so, gee thanks Jeff!

Although these guys can sound very prescriptive about quality and taste, I don't think they really mean it that way. They are just asking that you appreciate visual art for visual reasons first and foremost. If you feel you do that, then you would pass the NewMo test even if your tastes differ from theirs. My tastes certainly differ from them, and they likely don't think too much of my work, but we are in this together because we are fighting for visual quality. So if you truly want to look at Jeff Wall's work, then I think the guys here would be OK with that (though they'll likely say you have bad taste). But if you want to think about Wall's work... well, you know where that leads.

One more thing, in reading my post from 2004, I can't help but laugh at myself for this line:

"I can find beauty in lots of places... I can't find things that provoke thought."

I couldn't disagree with myself more if I tried. Beauty is scarce. Ideas are plentiful. I saw the Whitney Biennial over the weekend and let me just say, ideas are easy.

[Opie, I'm sorry this is so long. I know I broke your rule but maybe you'll be lenient since it's my first post here in a long time!]

252.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 6:56 AM

Hi JT!

253.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 6:57 AM

Anne Hathaway, in the lovely film Ella Enchanted, does a wonderful version of "Somebody to Love". Quick context for this clip: In the movie, Anne is Ella, who is under a magic spell which compels her to do whatever she's told. So when the giant tells her to sing, she must, and she does.

254.

J.T. Kirkland

June 3, 2008, 6:59 AM

I also meant to mention that I saw the Jeff Wall retrospective at the Arts Institute of Chicago in 2007 (including the Invisible Man piece). I thought maybe 2 or 3 pieces succeeded visually and Invisible Man was not one of them. To me Wall is trying to be impressive rather than being impressive. It's a subtle difference in today's art world, but it's important to me. Ultimately I left the show feeling that Wall knew the images wouldn't work on a more personal scale (or at least he wouldn't stand out) so he opted to go big and bright with the light boxes. I don't think it worked.

255.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:00 AM

Hi, JT. Glad to see we agree. Remember, though, that I do like your work. How it looks and how it smells.

256.

opie

June 3, 2008, 7:02 AM

I am not being evasive when I say this, but you may have noticed in my exchange with Clem that I prefer precise language.

On the face of it I agree with that it does not matter what is painting as long as it is - and here is the rub - "well painted". That phrase automatically brings up the same connotations as "good taste" so it is bound to be misunderstood. I would agree or disagree depending on the interpretatiuon of the phrase.

However, I think I also agree that there is no such thing as "good painting about nothing", but, again, the phrase is so loaded with overtones it is difficult to take a stand on it. Good painting always has substance, and good painting does not depend on its goodness by what it is "about". So, what to do?

I enjoy precision and clarity, but it is probably fruitless to persist in it here.

257.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:04 AM

Also I think it's pretty clear that Jeff Wall, like many photographers, wishes he was a really good painter, but can't be bothered to learn the skills.

258.

opie

June 3, 2008, 7:04 AM

BTW I think Chris had some good things to say about "about" somewhere above.

259.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 7:04 AM

Re 233, thanks. For not going the Nazi/Hitler route. I realize it was probably hard to resist the temptation. I stand by everything I've said. If you don't like it or don't agree, that's your affair, not mine. And by the way, are you Clemson? Or is that too, you know, fascist? Grow up, indeed.

260.

opie

June 3, 2008, 7:05 AM

Uh oh, Jack. You mentioned the word. Remember Godwin's law!

261.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:09 AM

Re #257:

Chris you said earlier you weren't very familiar with Wall's work - so where does that conjecture come from?

262.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:12 AM

Thanks for you frank response Opie. I didn't take it as fruitless.

263.

opie

June 3, 2008, 7:16 AM

Well, after trying to have a discussion with Clem it certainly seems so.

264.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:22 AM

J asks:
...so where does that conjecture come from?

Just what I've seen online and knowing what I know about photographers. It's a bias. I've argued before -- pointlessly, I know -- on Ed Winkleman's blog that photography isn't even really art. I don't really believe that -- not intellectually -- but when it comes down to experience, I just haven't ever responded to photography. Enough people berate me on it (so you don't have to) that I'm willing to believe it's my personal blind spot.

I will add a quick anecdote: For a few years I did computer work for a well-known photographer. One day I jokingly said that all photographers started out as failed painters. Ha ha! A few weeks later I happened upon his biography online and found out he had, indeed, started out as a painter, and when that didn't go so well, he switched to photography. Whoops.

My life is filled with faux pas after faux pas like that.

Anyway. Jeff Wall's photos, with their meticulous composition and attention to detail, coupled with their size, strike me as the kind of thing a painter would do -- perhaps a Renaissance fresco artist, or a Dutch master.

265.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 7:22 AM

I had another look at the Walls. The Tate site has this gem:

Literature and philosophy have been an important influence for Wall and two of these images refer directly to particular texts. He calls such pictures 'accidents of reading'.

I call such pictures "illustration." While I like illustration that sets out to succeed as illustration and does so, I have a very different opinion about art that sets out to succeed as art and succeeds instead as illustration. In many ways these images are inferior to the Mark Ryden work I linked to.

Chris answered #235 superlatively, but its opening paragraph is such a slice of unexamined life that I have to pick it apart:

Artistic quality does not exist solely in terms of visual quality. Something can be of lesser visual quality and we can still see and be moved by other aspects of its artistic quality.

But then we're not talking about its quality as visual art. Your other options, typically, are responding to literary quality and philosophical quality. There is such a thing as literary quality - I think our response to a good story is as hard-wired as our response to good form, although the responses are entirely different creatures, which is why we both make art and write books. I tend to doubt that there is philosophical quality. The pleasure we take in thinking is hard-wired, but ideas are first true or not, and second interesting or not. It's not unusual for an artist to open a jar of pigment and admire the color. It's not unusual for writers to roll individual words around on their mental tongues. But people who do the same thing with ideas are sophists. Ideas don't have value apart from a correspondence with truth.

Even Cultural conceptions of visual quality shift.

This is like saying that there's no good place to start a garden because of continental drift. Seeing has a biological basis that remains amazingly constant even as the culture of the seers changes.

If you want to see your taste, training, and experiences relating to art as based upon so-called objective factors, then you're fooling yourselves.

I'm going to guess that whatever your professional involvement with the art world, you haven't learned to draw. The training of drawing is based on objective factors. Hue, as we agree, is a matter of physics. We're talking about the material stuff of the world, and this is what our taste, training, and experiences are based on. You're fooling yourself if you think that there is infinitely subjective pliability regarding these materials and arrangements thereof.

All that NewMo's commitment to "visual quality" enacts is an opinion that degrades art which doesn't see itself in the same terms as you do.

First of all, there's been no shortage of denigration of art that pursues visual quality by people who don't accept those terms (see "junk wall decoration" above), and secondly, the terms are quite a bit less important than the outcome. Sometimes people succeed in spite of their intentions rather than because of them. But if they don't succeed, and their terms coddle their failure ("accidents of reading"?), then it's fair to challenge those terms.

This is part of what makes art so interesting and vital.

For "interesting," see what I said above about ideas. Things can be vital and unsuccessful as art, such as the drawings of children, but I'm primarily interested in artistic success.

It isn't something fixed and defined in the first place, artists and culture constantly expand what art is capable of and how it is relevant.

This is one of the art world's favorite bromides. Art is capable of very little. It only does one thing inherently and well: to act as a repository for visual quality. Figurative art is also inherently good at depiction. Everything else art is made to do typically finds better expression in another medium or activity.

266.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:32 AM

a link for you Chris

267.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 7:36 AM

Chris (246), your needs, comfort levels, etc. are obviously not the same as those of others, and I trust you know better than to expect they should or could be. If something bothers me, it will not cease doing so because it does not bother you. Your life might be happier and easier for it, but that has no bearing on mine.

268.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:39 AM

Or this might also be interesting

269.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:40 AM

Franklin sez:
Art is capable of very little.

I'd expand on this to say that art is capable of less and less. One thing Rosenberg wrote which has stuck with me is to ask what is the function of art given that 20th century media has taken over so many of the former functions of art?

Think for a moment about something very narrow. Think about colors. Imagine the world of Europe in the year 1492. Fabric dyes and pure pigments are very expensive, so only the very wealthiest people have clothing or other objects with bright colors. So you're a peasant. Where do you see colors, and what colors do you see? Your house is the color of mud. Your clothes are the color of mud. The land you work is, well, mud. Your crops are green for a little while. The sky is blue. Wildflowers make many pretty colors for brief moments of the year. And at church -- oh, at church! The sun shines through the stained glass windows and oh, the colors! Bright, amazing colors you see nowhere else! All through the year, every Sunday, the kaleidoscope of colors!

That's one of the functions that art used to have. Now think of today and how many colors you see and how often. We no longer need art to show us the possibilities of color. We have Ford Mustangs for that, and Hollister hotpants, and Captain Morgan's Rum billboards.

So what I'm thinking is, over the course of the 20th century, art has become capable of less and less. No longer can art tell us a religious story and be valuable for that alone. No longer can art show us ultramarine and be valuable for that alone. Art needs to find what it does best, and what only it does best, and it needs to do that.

And that is, simply, visual quality. That's all that's left.

Philosophically speaking, though, I'd also say that all those other things -- most movies, magazines, advertising, TV, pop music, our great big capitalist machine culture -- all of that is designed to make us feel inadequate, inferior, and in need of improvement. Everything is geared so that we feel we need a better car, or are paying too much for insurance, or that we have a funny nose, or that our labia is too wide, or our chin too narrow, or whatever. That way we'll buy things.

Art, at least, should have none of that.

270.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:43 AM

Jack sez:
If something bothers me, it will not cease doing so because it does not bother you.

Oh, of course. I was just saying. Feel free to feel whatever you feel. Don't listen to me, I'm a known idiot. Sincerely -- I just wanted to state my position. No one needs to agree with me.

271.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:45 AM

I like A Sudden Gust of Wind

272.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:45 AM

Ha! See, J, I told you, Wall is a failed painter!

273.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:46 AM

Wall has a lot to say about painting

274.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:48 AM

Wall has also said he considers himself a modernist

275.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:53 AM

Well, I honestly feel kind of bad picking on him now, because in that written interview you linked to he sounded very reasonable and pleasant, and quite thoughtful and interesting as a person. And I hate to pick on people like that.

And he does have some good thoughts on painting. Obviously he's a thinker, and maybe his writing has some excellent criticism in it. Maybe he only thinks he's a visual artist, and he's much better at writing. Then again, maybe his work is superfantastic in person -- I just don't know.

But I find it funny that I pegged him as a failed painter right off. And by "failed" I mean that, clearly, he's known for his photography, not for his painting. Maybe his paintings are awesome, but we haven't seen them.

276.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:54 AM

You have GOT to get out more brother!

277.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:55 AM

And I don't really have to say this, do I, but I will: Hokusai's Sudden Gust of Wind is superior in every way to Wall's, judging by the JPEGs.

278.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:57 AM

J sez:
You have GOT to get out more brother!

You got that right! Beautiful day and here I am responding in real time on this blog. I'm a dope!

279.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 7:58 AM

I'm gone too!

280.

opie

June 3, 2008, 8:58 AM

The Gust of Wind picture is a good example of what we are talking about because it is admirable in so many ways. The Hokusai reference, the skillful photography, the intricate staging, the surrealistic humor - All in all a real pleasure to look at, a pleasure which I am sure is magnified when seen in person.

However I respond esthetically much less to this picture. I can't say why, of course; the other factors of admiration simply take over. As an extravagant and entertaining tour de force it is wonderful. As a picture, pure and simple, it is less interesting.

This is not something I will to happen; it just happens.

281.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 9:04 AM

"Art is capable of very little"

"art is capable of less and less"

Maybe it is better that you guys stick to looking at art than thinking about it. Though even then, it's a pretty limited kind of seeing that doesn't take notice of the exciting work and possibilities that are unfolding. The increasing visuality of our culture doesn't mean that we need to draw up a barricade around "art" as you want to define it. The artistic community is best served by engaging in these developments, and bringing their values and practices to the table. The increasing relevance and the stature of the design community seems like a good example of this. In general, have they abandoned artistry or visual quality? No, they've simply continued to draw it out in a field that never makes communication secondary. I'm not saying that there aren't differences between graphic design and painting, or industrial design and sculpture, but I tend to think that their "family resemblances" are clear enough to connect them under the banner of art.

Franklin,

You're playing games.

"While I like illustration that sets out to succeed as illustration and does so, I have a very different opinion about art that sets out to succeed as art and succeeds instead as illustration"

How does illustration that succeeds as illustration, AKA "a subset of art that makes visual representations of ideas" differentiate itself from "art that sets out to succeed as art"? Does it only succeed as a "subset" and what the hell is that even supposed to mean?!

Opie,

See me as you like. But from my standpoint, I don't find your engagement here to be very Herculean.

"However, no work of art is better because it contains a particular ingredient, whether it is red paint, a face, a crucifixion, or a reference to a Ralph Ellison book"

If a particular "ingredient" is used well then it does contribute to artistic quality. It's the quality of Wall's reference that matters artistically.

Chris,

Regarding some of what you said about Wall's conceptualism, and the example you gave of Bosch, these are problems of interpretation. This is distinct from the fact that both represent something, and that you can't help but see this, even without going onto further analysis. Is it the difference that I'm making clear?

Also, isn't it the finished work that NewMo is concerned about-- how you arrive at "visual quality" is secondary, isn't it? So why should your comments about painting vs. photography as mediums make any difference?

J.T.

I'm sorry, but I'll have to take a closer look at your comments when I have the chance!

282.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 9:06 AM

Oh and Ahab,

I tend to like Wall's work that looks "staged" rather than "documentary".

283.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 9:25 AM

I am really going to go outside shortly, but I want to say, very quickly, Clem, that I do appreciate that you seem to be enthusiastic about art in general. That you're willing to argue endlessly here is part of it, but when you type stuff like, "...it's a pretty limited kind of seeing that doesn't take notice of the exciting work and possibilities that are unfolding..." I hear someone who really, really likes art. Even if you haven't had an orgasm, you seem to get a kick out of shaking hands, and -- in all sincerity -- I like your enthusiasm. That's why I think I keep typing to you, and why I'm kind of mystified at everyone else's very negative reactions to you. Maybe you're dense, maybe you're right, but either way, you definitely seem interested, and that's okay by me.

284.

opie

June 3, 2008, 9:27 AM

If a particular "ingredient" is used well then it does contribute to artistic quality.

This is a simple tautology, of course, but, once again, I have never said otherwise.

285.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 9:27 AM

"All in all a real pleasure to look at, a pleasure which I am sure is magnified when seen in person.

However I respond esthetically much less to this picture. I can't say why, of course; the other factors of admiration simply take over. As an extravagant and entertaining tour de force it is wonderful. As a picture, pure and simple, it is less interesting"

It seems to me like you're over-analyzing and unnecessarily breaking down your aesthetic experience. Lighten up! : )

286.

opie

June 3, 2008, 9:30 AM

My experience is fine. it is direct and unaffected.

What you read was my reporting on my experience, which is indeed the result of analysis.

I wouldn't expect you to recognize the difference.

287.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 9:43 AM

Hokusai's print is an organic creation original to him. Every line in it was his idea and his decision. Wall's take on Hokusai's image is a technical or photomechanical contrivance. It is of no interest to me except as an admittedly well done stunt, trick or technical feat.

I feel very similarly about analogous work by Vik Muniz (which, unlike this piece by Wall, I've seen in person). It has a certain initial impact, which for me starts dissipating very quickly, until, after a few minutes of looking at it, I don't care to ever see it again. It's cold and sterile.

Conversely, were I fortunate enough to be able to deal with Hokusai's print "up close and personal," as such prints were meant to be handled (literally), I can see poring over it in minute detail, over and over again, always finding something I'd missed before. I can say that because I've had the same experience with other Japanese prints, though an original Hokusai is out of my league.

288.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 9:50 AM

...it's a pretty limited kind of seeing that doesn't take notice of the exciting work and possibilities that are unfolding.

I am hard to impress. I certainly don't get excited about things just because they're new.

The increasing visuality of our culture doesn't mean that we need to draw up a barricade around "art" as you want to define it.

I have not defined art, and will not.

The artistic community is best served by engaging in these developments, and bringing their values and practices to the table.

Which developments?

The increasing relevance and the stature of the design community seems like a good example of this. In general, have they abandoned artistry or visual quality? No, they've simply continued to draw it out in a field that never makes communication secondary. I'm not saying that there aren't differences between graphic design and painting, or industrial design and sculpture, but I tend to think that their "family resemblances" are clear enough to connect them under the banner of art.

This is a good example, but not of what you think. A robust discipline has a clear idea about what makes the medium good. This is why comics are flourishing right now - its practitioners and aficionados, despite individual tastes, recognize en masse that sequentially juxtaposed images are a great expressive device. Consequently a huge quantity of talent has flowed towards it, especially in the last fifteen years. The designers have a similar shared understanding about functionality, originality, and elegance. One could include them under the banner of art, but that misses the point - these pursuits would continue cranking along productively whether one included them under the banner of art or not. That's what "robust" means - they have an understanding of themselves worked out from the inside.

This is why it makes sense to talk about what art is inherently good at. Many people believe that anything can be art. No one believes that anything can be comics. Robust genres are infinitely expandable within their inherent strengths. If you characterize an elucidation of those strenghts as "draw[ing] up a barricade" or something similarly negative ("limited," "narrow," etc.), you're enervating the form, not invigorating it.

You're playing games. ... How does illustration that succeeds as illustration, AKA "a subset of art that makes visual representations of ideas" differentiate itself from "art that sets out to succeed as art"? Does it only succeed as a "subset" and what the hell is that even supposed to mean?!

Illustration is a genre of art. Art is not a genre of illustration. That's what "subset" means. I have a BFA in illustration and an MFA in painting, I recently taught an illustration class, and work with comics. Thus I can tell you that the differences between illustration and fine art are theoretical, practical, and cultural, and would be happy to elaborate on any of these depending on the intention of the above questions. This is pretty self-evident stuff if you're in the illustration culture at all, and I take it by the "playing games" remark that you're not.

289.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 10:05 AM

(I'm not outside yet.)

I think I'm going to take a urinal, sign it "R. Crumb," and try to sell it as a comic book.

290.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 10:43 AM

Franklin,

What does it mean to succeed as a subset like illustration, versus succeeding as "art that sets out to succeed as art"? If illustration visually represents ideas, then isn't it the success of this representation that we need to incorporate into our judgment of its artistic quality?

Going back to when you said, "The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art", would you feel differently if I asked if visual representations of ideas have quality as art?

I'll try to address some of your points shortly, but feel these questions are akin to a second request!

291.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 11:02 AM

Jack, aside from being photography, I am hard pressed to find an analogy to Wall's in Muniz's work.

292.

opie

June 3, 2008, 11:04 AM

Clem do you really not understand these things or are you just harrassing us?

If it is the former then explanations are hopeless. If it is the latter you should just go away.

Franklin & I have answered these questions every which way, up & down, backwards and forwards, for thread after thread after thread. When will you ever get it?

293.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 11:09 AM

What does it mean to succeed as a subset like illustration, versus succeeding as "art that sets out to succeed as art"?

Illustration has its own shared priorities like design - skill of execution and communication of an idea are important. If you hang out at a site like Drawn! it's not hard to get a sense of what constitutes success. There's a lot of room to be charming and funny in illustration because the successful conveyance of an idea counts as success - a success of communication, not of a success of art. Artistic success is the creation of good form.

If illustration visually represents ideas, then isn't it the success of this representation that we need to incorporate into our judgment of its artistic quality?

The illustrations that accompany the installation instructions for a new toilet flushing mechanism succeed if you understand how to perform the installation from studying them. This doesn't cause them to triumph as art. Substitute any idea you like for the installation instructions and the same holds true.

Going back to when you said, "The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art", would you feel differently if I asked if visual representations of ideas have quality as art?

Representations of ideas, people, animals, landscapes, or anything else may very well have quality as art depending on their execution.

294.

John

June 3, 2008, 11:18 AM

To the extent that george is saying the cream does not necessarily rise to the top, I agree with him. I also add that "the top" is not necessarily occupied only by "cream". And in some periods of regression there can be more "non-cream" than "cream' in the most revered part of the system.

This may ultimately be good for art, as forest fires are good for some forests (long leaf pine, for instance), but it is very difficult to say that with any conviction on my part.

295.

John

June 3, 2008, 11:19 AM

To the extent that george is saying the cream does not necessarily rise to the top, I agree with him. I also add that "the top" is not necessarily occupied only by "cream". And in some periods of regression there can be more "non-cream" than "cream' in the most revered part of the system.

This may ultimately be good for art, as forest fires are good for some forests (long leaf pine, for instance), but it is very difficult to say that with any conviction on my part.

296.

John

June 3, 2008, 11:22 AM

To the extent that george is saying the cream does not necessarily rise to the top, I agree with him. I also add that "the top" is not necessarily occupied only by "cream". And in some periods of regression there can be more "non-cream" than "cream' in the most revered part of the system.

This may ultimately be good for art, as forest fires are good for some forests (long leaf pine, for instance), but it is very difficult to say that with any conviction on my part.

297.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 11:45 AM

Re 291, I was referring to various pieces by Muniz based on famous images by other artists such as Monet, done by him in various media or techniques, not necessarily or exclusively photography. The principle, at least for me, appears similar, and the effect certainly is. These things can be very big, glossy, colorful, flashy and so forth, and momentarily impress as a "cool" or "nifty" or mechanically intriguing contraptions, but they are ultimately overblown gimmicks that tend to make me feel silly for bothering with them in the first place. They leave me cold.

298.

John

June 3, 2008, 11:52 AM

To the extent that george is saying the cream does not necessarily rise to the top, I agree with him. I also add that "the top" is not necessarily occupied only by "cream". And in some periods of regression there can be more "non-cream" than "cream' in the most revered part of the system.

This may ultimately be good for art, as forest fires are good for some forests (long leaf pine, for instance), but it is very difficult to say that with any conviction on my part.

299.

who clem is

June 3, 2008, 11:52 AM

That's good, Jack. You go ahead and stand by your comments, it doesn't make them any less stupid. I'm sure the ranks of conspiracy theorists everywhere are glad to have you on board. That this conversation has little to do with Edmonton, or any of the instutions criticized by MC and ahab, seems to have been lost on you. But then, it's obvious your real focus is on opening Clem up to personal attacks, and not the ongoing debate. Good luck uncovering the "hidden agenda".

300.

John

June 3, 2008, 11:54 AM

Sorry for the multiple posts, but my browser kept saying it could not reach "the page" and or "the remote server is down, try later". I tried lated and the post went through normally. Much to my surprise, so had all the others.

301.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 11:58 AM

I think Wall's photographs have more to do with historical photography such as William Notman's.

302.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 12:22 PM

If the page 503s like that after you post, you should go check to see if the comment took anyway. As you see, it happens sometimes.

303.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 12:46 PM

I think you might find something analogous, in the works of Wall's contemporaries, like Rodney Graham,Ken Lum, Ian Walllace

304.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 12:49 PM

Wallace with only two ls

305.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 12:54 PM

I apologize if this does seem circular, but I just want clarification of your comment Franklin.

Is it the caliber of the representation, a work's representativeness as it were, that "may very well have quality as art", or the visual characteristics which "execute" it?

306.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 12:55 PM

I guess the thing that troubles me is, Notman didn't think his photos were art. He thought of them as a product, and he had studios set up all over to do the work for him when he got popular enough. So comparing a guy who exhibits in Chelsea to a guy like Notman is like comparing Nobu to McDonald's -- only in this case, you get food of the same quality at both, which is to say crap.

307.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 1:02 PM

Chris, you say:

"I guess the thing that troubles me is, Notman didn't think his photos were art. He thought of them as a product, and he had studios set up all over to do the work for him when he got popular enough. So comparing a guy who exhibits in Chelsea to a guy like Notman is like comparing Nobu to McDonald's -- only in this case, you get food of the same quality at both, which is to say crap."

Actually the reference is to the medium of photography which has, for a long time embraced illusion, Notman's being a good Canadian historical example.

308.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 1:05 PM

Sorry, I can't parse the question in #305. Maybe try something that doesn't need quotes.

309.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 1:15 PM

Re 299, your opinion of what is or is not stupid is of neither interest nor concern to me, especially since I know absolutely nothing about you (and yes, I know you're not telling). You might be Clemson; you might be Paris Hilton. Regardless, what I say on this board is not contingent on your approval. Trust me.

I don't expect this to make much difference, certainly not to you, but here goes. Unless I have some reasonable idea as to who or what somebody is, something I can get a handle on, it's like talking to the ether, which bothers me. How others feel about that is beside the point. To give an example, if I'm going to discuss, say, Damien Hirst, with someone who happens to be his dealer, agent, employee, lover, relative, groupie, or the hedge-fund wiz who bought Hirst's rotting shark, I absolutely want and expect to know that, both because it's relevant and because it will help me navigate more effectively and efficiently.

Another theoretical example: I would really hate myself for wasting any significant effort arguing over the ostensible merits of Warhol with someone who, unknown to me, was a devoted disciple of Arthur Danto, let alone Danto himself, he of the Epiphany of the Brillo Boxes. I'm no more interested in talking Warhol with someone like that than in talking totalitarian one-person government with Fidel Castro, for what should be obvious reasons.

But of course you still think I'm being stupid. Deal with it.

310.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 1:19 PM

Whoah, Jack - you need some toast and tea, pronto!

311.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 1:21 PM

I just noticed that, back in #237, I called Jeff Wall "Larry Wall." Larry Wall, of course, is the creator of the Perl programming language, which probably accounts for my slip (I'm a Perl programmer when I'm not an artist).

312.

J@simpleposie

June 3, 2008, 1:32 PM

Well, anyway Chris, crap is quite a harsh assessment, no?

313.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 2:15 PM

Of Wall, maybe. Of McDonald's, no.

314.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 2:21 PM

Franklin,

"Illustration has its own shared priorities like design - skill of execution and communication of an idea are important. If you hang out at a site like Drawn! it's not hard to get a sense of what constitutes success. There's a lot of room to be charming and funny in illustration because the successful conveyance of an idea counts as success - a success of communication, not of a success of art"

Too bad that communication representation has been a part of art for much longer than formalism or visual abstraction. That you want to make it something separate from the "success of art" is ahistorical and shallow.

"Artistic success is the creation of good form"

And here I thought that you hadn't defined art!

"The illustrations that accompany the installation instructions for a new toilet flushing mechanism succeed if you understand how to perform the installation from studying them. This doesn't cause them to triumph as art. Substitute any idea you like for the installation instructions and the same holds true."

Some instructions are more artistic than others. I'm no expert on toilet flushing, but here's a classic examples that still involves tubes!

http://blog.iso50.com/wp-content/uploads/manual/1972NY_subway_mapbig.jpg

"Representations of ideas, people, animals, landscapes, or anything else may very well have quality as art depending on their execution"

B-I-N-G-O!

But I'm pretty sure that this is as close as you'll come to saying a work's representativeness, which exceeds its visual characteristics, plays into how we experience and evaluate it's artistic quality. Look up the definition or etymology of "image" if you can't parse that. It's a pretty basic starting point for art.

315.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 2:25 PM

Chris,

I do appreciate your good-will, if not agreement throughout this discussion. Though I'll admit to being a bit miffed about you saying I mistake a handshake for, uh, an entirely different kind of shaking indeed! I've no experience myself, but I've heard that's there's actually a whole genre of photography that's aims to facilitate said "experience"-- but I'm not vouching for its artistic quality!

316.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 2:36 PM

You can always check out John Currin's work.

317.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 2:39 PM

Do you like his painting, Chris?

318.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 2:45 PM

Going back inside:

Clem sez:
This is distinct from the fact that both represent something, and that you can't help but see this, even without going onto further analysis. Is it the difference that I'm making clear?

I think I get what you're saying here -- you want to make a distinction between representative art -- Bosch has painted a guy with a trumpet up his ass, or whatever -- and purely abstract art. Okay, distinction granted. I'm not sure what your point is, though, since representation is, again, separate from visual quality.

Also, isn't it the finished work that NewMo is concerned about-- how you arrive at "visual quality" is secondary, isn't it? So why should your comments about painting vs. photography as mediums make any difference?

You're right, my position on photography isn't consistent with my philosophy of art. It just isn't. There's no real explanation for it, other than my personal bias against photography, which I can't explain. I've tried. I don't know what it is exactly.

I consider myself open to the idea that one day I'll see a photo that will blow me away. It hasn't happened yet.

But then I was in my thirties before a painting really blew me away, and I'd seen lots of paintings before that. So one never knows.

319.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 2:49 PM

Do you like to take can openers to cylindrical objects labeled "WORMS"?

Do I like John Currin's painting? I liked his last show, until someone found the photos he'd copied, and then I got really annoyed.

320.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 3:00 PM

Ah, yes...flushing refuse down the toilet...how strangely seductive that seems just now...I mean, tea and toast is all very well, I'm sure, but it's just not the same...not nearly as cathartic...if only there was a FLUSH button built into the blog mechanism...yes...and perhaps suitable sound effects to go with it...talk about puttting geekery to good use...

321.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 4:00 PM

"I think I get what you're saying here -- you want to make a distinction between representative art -- Bosch has painted a guy with a trumpet up his ass, or whatever -- and purely abstract art. Okay, distinction granted. I'm not sure what your point is, though, since representation is, again, separate from visual quality"

But of course this is where we disagree, visual quality, though obviously an important part, is not artistic quality in its entirety. I'm going to try and think of a couple of examples to ground this with-- that aren't Jeff Walls!

RE: Currin. I agree that being annoyed at something for conceptual or visual reasons does put a damper on aesthetic experiences. Like I've mentioned, I'm currently trying to get past my habitual annoyment with steel sculpture and give it a chance.

322.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 4:36 PM

Clem sez:
...visual quality, though obviously an important part, is not artistic quality in its entirety.

No one ever said it was. However, I am asserting that visual quality is the primary part, such that without it, any work fails as visual art. Moreover, if a work lacks a modicum of visual quality, it ceases to be visual art. It isn't automatically bad, or stupid, or worthless, but it's not visual art. For example, Kant's Prolegomena to Future Metaphysics is, visually, not very interesting.

323.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 5:07 PM

Too bad that communication representation has been a part of art for much longer than formalism or visual abstraction.

Visual abstraction seems to have been a part of art for a very long time. It stands to reason that humans would develop ability with some simple shape- and pattern-making before we got an arsenal of figurative techniques together.

That you want to make it something separate from the "success of art" is ahistorical and shallow.

If the order in which these things appear prove your assertion one way or another, and I'm not sure it does, I have some bad news for your assertion.

And here I thought that you hadn't defined art!

I haven't. I've defined artistic success: the creation of good form. We may be having a problem with terminology here. If you mean "artistic" as a broad creative term, such as one might refer (unfortunately, in my opinion) to the artistic success of a novel or a film, then you're not going to like the way I use it, which is success as art - visual art, which is what we deal with here on Artblog.net.

But I'm pretty sure that this is as close as you'll come to saying a work's representativeness, which exceeds its visual characteristics, plays into how we experience and evaluate it's artistic quality.

I just looked up "representativeness" and found "the collective term used to describe the following range of fallacies people make when judging probabilities." Since I assume that this is not what you mean, please write what you do mean and I'll respond to it.

324.

opie

June 3, 2008, 5:33 PM

But Franklin, you neglected to observe that "representativeness" goes on to " exceed" the work's "visual characteristics".

I admire your amazing patience but the man has the intelligence and comprehension of a rhododendron. You are talking to a stump. It's hopeless.

325.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 5:38 PM

Chris,

I'm just going to mull over what you've, and J.T. have said about "visual quality" being first & foremost. Sorry to go back to the Wall example, but I'm not arguing that a poorer visual representation wouldn't affect my judgment. It's how the visual and conceptual work together which sells the work for me.

I'm still going to get to some examples too, because this seems to be a better way of talking about any of this...

Franklin,

"4: of or relating to representation or representationalism
— rep·re·sen·ta·tive·ly adverb
— rep·re·sen·ta·tive·ness noun
— rep·re·sen·ta·tiv·i·ty Listen to the pronunciation of representativity -ˌzen-tə-ˈti-və-tē noun"

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rep%B7re%B7sen%B7ta%B7tive%B7ness

And while you're checking that, best you review the article you provided. The scientists in question sure seem to think its tied up with communication.

Finally, visual art is a subset of art in general. I'd like to think that there's some common ground for artistic success.

326.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 5:39 PM

Who knows? Depending on what "representativeness" means, maybe it does! (Probably not.)

No, he's demonstrating super-rhododendron cognitive abilities. Anyway, changing the minds of people who sort of agree with you is easy. If I change the mind of so-called Clem, that would be something. If it doesn't happen, no loss - I'm that much sharper.

327.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 5:47 PM

I was about to point to some of the comment guidelines that you'd set for yourself. But then I remembered that this is a blog about visual art, so I guess it's no surprise that ethics don't really seem to apply.

328.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 5:56 PM

...best you review the article you provided. The scientists in question sure seem to think its tied up with communication.

Best you review it: "Steve Kuhn of the University of Arizona ... adds: 'I'd be more comfortable if there were more of these engraved stones; if these alleged symbols were found many times in different places. It is possible they were just doodlings that really didn't mean anything.'" To my eye, the regularity of the design indicates decoration, not communication. But like the man says, we don't know.

Finally, visual art is a subset of art in general. I'd like to think that there's some common ground for artistic success.

Arthur Whitman posited something similar a while back on this blog and I said that he ought to try to prove it if he can, but that he was going to have a hard time articulating it. If you'd like to make a case for generalized success that accounts for all creative forms, which is what I assume you mean by "art in general," go ahead. I tend to think that it doesn't exist, which is why the various genres come into being and specialize.

That just leaves what on earth you mean by saying that a work's representativeness exceeds its visual characteristics.

329.

Jack

June 3, 2008, 6:13 PM

Oh, but OP (324), though I would never argue with you on botanical matters, I'm afraid you're missing the true if sickly beauty that is Clemson.

Just read, or wade through, his #314. It's a classic of its kind, a distillation of his very essence, a compendium of his most salient traits. It's like, well...it's like fine upscale compost.

But don't take my word for it, inhale. The last two sentences alone so deliciously reek of condescension that they could be deeply, uh, challenging, but considering the source, they're merely risible (or pitiable, for those more kindly disposed).

330.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 6:19 PM

"Visual abstraction seems to have been a part of art for a very long time"

So by linking to an article that mostly highlights scientific research and speculation about how these may be symbols meant for communication, you're making a case for their abstraction?

"Dr Christopher Henshilwood, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says: "They may have been constructed with symbolic intent, the meaning of which is now unknown.

"We don't know what they mean, but they are symbols that I think could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others."

Notice that the quote you selected is a counterpoint that caps of the end of the article. In journalism, they call that "balance". At best you've given an example of debate, not evidence of visual abstraction.

331.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 6:35 PM

Read what in journalism they call the lede: "The world's oldest example of abstract art, dating back more than 70,000 years, has been found in a cave in South Africa." Also read what in journalism they call the headline.

332.

opie

June 3, 2008, 6:38 PM

You are right, Clem. I apologize. We are not supposed to characterize around here. It may be that this recalcitrance you display so amply is mischievous rather than stupid. For your sake I hope so, but that wouldn't make it any more bearable.

333.

Clem

June 3, 2008, 6:54 PM

"At best you've given an example of debate, not evidence of visual abstraction."

Do you disagree with this point?

Secondly, how did you find that article?

Now back to your previous points.

"To my eye, the regularity of the design indicates decoration, not communication."

Oh I get it, the origin and value of abstract art lies in its decorativeness. You guys would have saved me a lot of time if I'd only known that's what you meant by "visual quality". George was right.

"Arthur Whitman posited something similar a while back on this blog and I said that he ought to try to prove it if he can, but that he was going to have a hard time articulating it. If you'd like to make a case for generalized success that accounts for all creative forms, which is what I assume you mean by "art in general," go ahead."

That regardless of genre, artistic works expresses form and content according to their medium(s). This is communication.

"That just leaves what on earth you mean by saying that a work's representativeness exceeds its visual characteristics"

What happens when you refer to something visually? Is this experience limited to what is visually in front of you? Of course not. You visually perceive a relationship to the signified, which is not identical to the signifier. I realize you're going to love that particular bit of language, but don't confuse it for either obfuscation or mischievousnesses.

334.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 7:25 PM

Do you disagree with this point?

Yep. It's self-evidently an abstract design. Whether it was supposed to mean something is unknown. Whether it's a drawn repeating pattern is obvious.

Secondly, how did you find that article?

I don't remember. It's several years old now.

Oh I get it, the origin and value of abstract art lies in its decorativeness. You guys would have saved me a lot of time if I'd only known that's what you meant by "visual quality".

Some types of decoration are visually good. Some are not.

That regardless of genre, artistic works expresses form and content according to their medium(s). This is communication.

I generally leave people alone about their grammar but your cumulative lapses are making you hard to understand. This doesn't answer the challange I put to Arthur, but while we're in the neighborhood, if all creative forms are communication, what distinguishes creative forms from communication in general?

Again, my challenge to Arthur was to prove the existence of generalized creative quality - that the pleasure we derive from poetry, for instance, is a different form of the pleasure we derive from drawing. I think they are different pleasures, involving different senses and human functioning, just as good spicy food and a good massage are different pleasures. Again, try if you think you can do it, but I don't think it's going to work.

335.

Chris Rywalt

June 3, 2008, 7:28 PM

Not signifiers! No! RUN AWAY!

Clem sez:
You visually perceive a relationship to the signified, which is not identical to the signifier.

No, you don't visually perceive the relationship. You make the connection after visually apprehending the object -- the "signifier." (Not all objects, marks, works of art, or parts of works of art are signifiers.) After receiving the visual signal, the pattern recognition parts of your nervous system make comparisons and offer up possible connections. This all happens very quickly, of course -- faster some times, slower at others, faster for some people, slower for others. But usually pretty quickly, I think.

An example from a lower order of animal: If you show the silhouette of a hawk to a newly-hatched bird (I forget the species), it'll react with fear. This isn't learned behavior -- it hasn't had time to learn anything. It's built into the organism: "Fear this shape." The bird doesn't see the silhouette and visually perceive a relationship. It sees the silhouette and that's wired directly to the fear response.

The signifier/signified relationship is governed by a different set of neural processes than the one governing visual apprehension. Visual quality operates at that level. Like the baby bird, you see something, it causes a response. Then, later, you think about it.

336.

Franklin

June 3, 2008, 8:05 PM

Forgot that last item.

What happens when you refer to something visually?

I say, hey, look at that over there! I have no idea what this question means.

You visually perceive a relationship to the signified, which is not identical to the signifier.

And this is somehow what you meant when you said a work's representativeness exceeds its visual characteristics. That's too bad, but at least the rephrasing is comprehensible. The signifier is not identical to the thing signified. The map is not the territory. No problem there. Just as the signifier is not identical to the thing signified, the response to the signifier is not identical to the response to the thing signified. Thus we can distinguish the two responses. This backs up what I've been saying.

Do we perceive the relationship between the two? I'm not so sure about that. If you don't know what the signifiers mean, there is no relationship. You can imagine what happens to the communication that's supposed to come from painting of the Italian high Renaissance if you don't know the Christian story. Otherwise, "relationship" is an interesting way to put that, and I'll mull it over. But you're not only seeing the relationship - first, you see the thing.

337.

Chris Rywalt

June 4, 2008, 10:30 AM

Doing a little research into semiotics, I find that I may have misunderstood the concept of the sign. Apparently at some point the sign was enlarged to cover, not just actual language or direct communication, but anything -- gestures, movement, posture, even clothing -- that might carry some kind of meaning from one sentient being to another. That is, the sign, by definition, now envelops vastly more processes than just those of what I'd consider direct communication. In fact, by my reading, I'd say that anything touched by a human being can qualify as a sign in this sense.

So now that Clem has surrendered the terms "signifier" and "signified," and I've done some reading, I can see why we've been arguing the way we have, all of us. We're on entirely different planets.

And now my head hurts.

338.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 10:31 AM

"Yep"

The researcher who actually worked at the site in this article speculated about their symbolism (and seems to have continued to flush this argument out over the years). At the end of the article a researcher who wasn't working at the site or on the subject speculated that they might not be and said he'd be more comfortable if there were more similar examples before reaching that conclusion. By linking to an article about an ongoing debate, you didn't disprove my statement that "communication [and] representation have been a part of art for much longer than formalism or visual abstraction".

If you want to be picky and try to link the visual abstraction of these patterns, or of any art for that matter, with your very particular school of formalism and abstraction, then you're distorting the term. There's a reason that AbEx was so revolutionary in its day, and it's not because of continuity with artistic tradition, but precisely because of how it broke from representation. When the writer in this article calls these artifacts "abstract art" or the other scientist concludes they could just be "doodles", they certainly have different things in mind than you do when using the term.

"Secondly, how did you find that article?

I don't remember. It's several years old now"

So it wasn't from googling "oldest abstract art" for which it is the first result?

Now back to some of your actual arguments:

"It stands to reason that humans would develop ability with some simple shape- and pattern-making before we got an arsenal of figurative techniques together".

Simple shapes and pattern-making are figurative techniques. Look at how most pictograms or written languages don't require "an arsenal of figurative techniques"...

"It's self-evidently an abstract design. Whether it was supposed to mean something is unknown. Whether it's a drawn repeating pattern is obvious"

This is similar to Chris' argument that's visual abstraction is the only thing that we clearly have access to with these artifacts. Just because the question of intelligibility comes up, doesn't mean that questions of meaning or function drop out of the equation.

"What distinguishes creative forms from communication in general?"

This is a tricky question and it gets back to what the generalities of art are. It's like asking how do you separate steel sculpture from an organized pile of junk? I like Gombrich's assertion that there is no capital A Art, persay, that we're best to look at those who label themselves as artists and what it is that they purposefully create in art's name. But obviously artistic spirit creeps into a lot of work and things that don't see themselves in those terms. Though you can breath a sigh of relief that I'm not going to start talking about the art of politics or decorum here.

In terms of how different mediums relate to one another, I'm pretty sure you can work that out. But as an example, High-modernism spans visual, literary, architectural, and musical forms. It's obvious that what at happens at the level of a medium's specificity doesn't so much as confine, as translate a shared approach to art. One recognize's a kinship between Pollock, Cage, and Beckett. Now you might say that this is more of a shard philosophy than artistic practice, but I've consistently said that you can't separate the two. Besides, mediums bleed into one another all of the time. And that's not a bad thing in my book. Constantly distinguishing particular genres does indeed point to specificity, but the harder you concentrate on these differences, the more divisive you're being, the more you obscure resemblances.

I want to be clear, I am not dismissive or uninterested in the formal elements of a particular medium/genre. But I'm equally concerned with the danger that Klee once wrote of, wherein "one may simply lose one's bearings on the formal plane". Formal technique and construction may well be the foundation of visual art, but they're hardly its' crowning achievement.

Now you guys have repeatedly jumped on my assertion that this achievement, and accordingly a basis for artistic quality, is communication. And in a lot of ways I can understand why. The shortcomings of verbal and written language, of narrative itself, are clear to me (this the focus of much of post-modern/critical theory after all). I see the major problem as being how particular languages relate to reality-- both social and natural. Visual art admittedly takes up quite a different relationship with it. One that I actually think can be superior at its heights. But this too is communication or expression. I just don't think you guys are willing to see the concept as open enough to include visual art. I realize you're more comfortable with the notion that art, or maybe seeing, ties into emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations. But this experience, one of exchange, is communication. You can find art that doesn't include ideas, concepts, or narrative, but they too communicate something, even if some artists want to claim that it is unintelligible or abstract.

339.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 10:35 AM

"shard philosophy" indeed!

340.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 10:43 AM

"An example from a lower order of animal: If you show the silhouette of a hawk to a newly-hatched bird (I forget the species), it'll react with fear. This isn't learned behavior -- it hasn't had time to learn anything. It's built into the organism: "Fear this shape." The bird doesn't see the silhouette and visually perceive a relationship. It sees the silhouette and that's wired directly to the fear response"

As you know, these kind of pre-social, hard wired arguments about behavior get under my skin. I guess we'll never know, but now I'm interested what Greenberg himself would have done, if, as a baby he was placed in front of a Pollock painting. I'd wager that at the most, he might sit there for just as long as he did in later life. But knowing a couple of rampaging infants, that's probably a stretch too : )

341.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 10:50 AM

Not that I want to distract from my longer comment, but regarding the socialized nature of seeing, I thought it might be of interest to quickly share this quote:

"Evidence of incomprehension of movies or TV by inexperienced viewers [leads us to believe that ] a view needs to go through a period of visual adaptation before being able to understand the image in a movie or TV program"
- Paul Messaris in Visual Literacy: Image, Mind, and Reality

342.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 10:52 AM

That should read "viewer". Sorry for all the consecutive posts!

343.

Chris Rywalt

June 4, 2008, 12:33 PM

Actually, Clem, I agree with your points. It's true that watching TV or movies, or comprehending a painting or drawing, are learned abilities. My favorite anecdote about this comes from the excellent documentary Keep the River on Your Right.

Quick background on the movie: It's about this guy from New York City who, on a trip to South America, hears about a tribe living in the jungle. He decides he wants to meet them, so he wanders off into the jungle with almost no supplies. Instead of getting himself killed, he finds the tribe and ends up living with them for a couple of years. There's more -- a lot more -- but that's all you need to know for now.

The guy from New York was an artist and he brought his pad and pencil with him. He figured he'd communicate by drawing. But it turned out, he discovered, that the tribesmen had never seen drawings before and couldn't even comprehend what he was trying to do with them! They hadn't learned to see drawing, so they couldn't understand it.

However, I don't think that learned activity is necessarily "socialized" activity. And none of it need be mediated through language.

I also don't think I ever said anything like this:
"This is similar to Chris' argument that's visual abstraction is the only thing that we clearly have access to with these artifacts." I don't think abstraction is all we have access to. I do think that the visual is all we have access to. That and shared biology.

Anyway, I'm trying to make more sense of all this, put it together into something, but my medication is acting up, and my son is watching TV in the next room, and altogether everything is keeping me from thinking straight. Maybe I'll come back later.

344.

opie

June 4, 2008, 12:36 PM

I don't know who you refer to as "you guys" Clem. I wuld not say "art is not communication". What we call "communication" is one brain taking some part of reality and organizing it to have a predicted effect on another brain, which is what art does.

The problem is that "Communication" is usually thought of in terms of language, and when used for art it almost always immediately becomes "what does it say" - the old "what is the message" thing. For this reason I usually stay away from it when discussing art. It is a pragmatic choice, not a definitional one.

345.

Karl

June 4, 2008, 1:09 PM

Communication

346.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 1:31 PM

By linking to an article about an ongoing debate, you didn't disprove my statement that "communication [and] representation have been a part of art for much longer than formalism or visual abstraction".

Yes I did. Going back 70,000 years they were at least simultaneous, and that's if pure speculation on the part of the scientists that the drawings mean something is correct. If not, which is a distinct possibility, visual abstraction is older.

When the writer in this article calls these artifacts "abstract art" or the other scientist concludes they could just be "doodles", they certainly have different things in mind than you do when using the term.

I think we have exactly the same things in mind, but I'm not in their heads. Likewise, you're not in mine.

So it wasn't from googling "oldest abstract art" for which it is the first result?

I didn't know that. I may have noticed the article when it came out at the time.

Simple shapes and pattern-making are figurative techniques.

That's an interesting assertion: that making shapes and patterns are not techniques of abstraction. Go ahead and prove that.

Just because the question of intelligibility comes up, doesn't mean that questions of meaning or function drop out of the equation.

Questions of meaning and function can be asked of any human endeavor. On an object like this one, questions are all we have, with one exception: a clear case of drawing. All original meaning falls away over time - the only questions are how much and how fast. Form remains amazingly persistent. 70,000 years! Uncanny.

I probably should have brought this up sooner, but I just remembered that I covered some related issues about aesthetic and historical value in an essay I wrote for newCrit. Also, I wrote an early Artblog.net post called Prehistoric Art for Art's Sake in which I argue against the overly pragmatic thinking that goes on in the minds of germane scholars.

This is a tricky question and it gets back to what the generalities of art are.

I think it's an unanswerable question and it fatally undermines the characterization of all creative forms as communication. There's a further question of whether it's useful to do so. If you think reality is socially determined it might suit you fine. I don't, and I see important differences between what we normally call communication and what goes on when people make or appreciate visual art. Too, it encourages an approach to art that favors interpretation, which is a valid activity, but a different activity than the detection of quality.

In terms of how different mediums relate to one another, I'm pretty sure you can work that out.... Constantly distinguishing particular genres does indeed point to specificity, but the harder you concentrate on these differences, the more divisive you're being, the more you obscure resemblances.

As I said earlier, when you characterize an elucidation of a genre's strengths as limited or narrow, to which we can now add "divisive," you're enervating the genre, not invigorating it. Furthermore, this doesn't answer the challenge to Arthur. That the genres share traits within a style is at least arguable (although you end up with a lot of outliers that resist relation, such as what modernist architecture and poetry have to do with each other). Arthur's assertion is different: that the different genres represent variations on a singular creative quality. (To reiterate for comparison, I think instead that the different genres represent different kinds of quality entirely.) Feel free to back out of this - I don't think it can be done.

Formal technique and construction may well be the foundation of visual art, but they're hardly its' crowning achievement.

I don't think art has a crowning achivement. I do see what it's good at.

I realize you're more comfortable with the notion that art, or maybe seeing, ties into emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations. But this experience, one of exchange, is communication.

I realize that you're more comfortable reducing everything down to language and aren't really open to the inclusion of innate, shared human functioning into the art experience as anything but secondary, but we're ultimately talking about the interaction of brute materials and biology. And if you find the framing of this sentence condescending, stop using it yourself.

347.

Chris Rywalt

June 4, 2008, 2:26 PM

Franklin sez:
I realize that you're more comfortable reducing everything down to language....

This is what I wanted to get at with my comment about semiotics. Clem isn't reducing everything down to language. He's expanding "signs" to cover everything.

I think this argument, in general, is a problem of levels.

When I go outside and wiggle my toes in my lawn, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the number of overlapping levels around me. The ants are warring, the grass is growing, cesium is decaying, I'm enjoying the breeze, and none of these levels are directly related to the others, but they're all there and to some degree interrelated.

Certainly two colonies of ants contain quarks, but one doesn't start studying ant wars with quantum electrodynamics. I think Clem is talking about QED but we're talking about ant wars.

348.

ahab

June 4, 2008, 2:27 PM

Very good, Franklin. You've not failed yet to turn the lights on Clem's assumptions and ascriptions and word-usages and leaps of reasoning. I've kept my head down for the past while because Clem's inexactitudes are exhausting to read, never mind respond to. The one I can't let go, though, is Clem's use of 'communication': But this experience, one of exchange, is communication.

Karl helpfully linked to Wikipedia's entry: "communication is the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver....", and, "communication is social interaction...." By which, Clem's sentence becomes: But this experience, one of exchange, is the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver; or, But this experience, one of exchange, is social interaction. Potentially the all-body experience standing before a work of art could be communicative, but it is not itself 'communication'. And obviously not an exchange - the experience of art is a human activity, but it is not a social interaction.

Additionally, though it may be a little more correct to say, "the experience of art is communicative", this's so vague it's useless; and so obvious it's redundant.

349.

Jack

June 4, 2008, 2:56 PM

All right, this is silly. All this voluminous commentary, and for what? To what end? For whose benefit? High numbers may be nice, but not if we're dealing with a glorified spam job.

Those who've been around long enough will know what I mean when I say Clemson is no Flatboy, not by a long shot. There's a difference between a real challenge and a tiresome, petulant, clueless nuisance.

The rest of you may carry on as you wish, but I've had enough of the Clemson-go-round. Why bother with a salesman when you have no use for what he's selling and no intention of buying it? Just hang up the phone or close the door and move on.

350.

opie

June 4, 2008, 3:46 PM

Not "levels" Chris. Levels are up and down. just a lot of things going on at the same time.

351.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 4:07 PM

Opie,

I do recognize what you're saying about linguistic terms and specificity slipping into a discussion about other forms of communication. I've always appreciated that anecdote about how Pollock took the criticism that his paintings had no beginning or end as a compliment. To me, this has always seem like a valid rejection of narrative as something required of art. There is communication outside of narrative, and even meaning in the linguistic sense. I don't want to fudge the difference between meaning and feelings, ideas and emotions, etc. But I do believe strongly that art is made for the purpose of communication, regardless of what exactly is the subject of exchange, or even the degree to which it succeeds. I'm even willing to grant that specific mediums are best for certain types of exchange (but that becomes a matter for specific debate).

"I would not say "art is not communication"."

I'm interested to know if you think that this is consistent with what Franklin has been arguing, or shows a difference in your positions?


Franklin,

"Yes I did. Going back 70,000 years they were at least simultaneous, and that's if pure speculation on the part of the scientists that the drawings mean something is correct. If not, which is a distinct possibility, visual abstraction is older"

You're also speculating that they're only abstract "doodles". Just because you can see them that way doesn't mean you've given any proof to define their function as "abstract art".

"I think we have exactly the same things in mind, but I'm not in their heads. Likewise, you're not in mine."

Though vague, their reference to "abstract art" also seems to cover other pictorial paintings like Lascaux, where symbolism is just as hotly debated. You're right, I'm not in their heads, but I don't think that an article that primarily focuses on the possibility of symbolism is using "abstract art" in an "art for art's sake" kind of way.

"Simple shapes and pattern-making are figurative techniques.

That's an interesting assertion: that making shapes and patterns are not techniques of abstraction. Go ahead and prove that."

I'd probably change that "are" to "can". My examples back this up.

"Questions of meaning and function can be asked of any human endeavor. On an object like this one, questions are all we have, with one exception: a clear case of drawing. All original meaning falls away over time - the only questions are how much and how fast. Form remains amazingly persistent. 70,000 years! Uncanny."

Form is all around us. When we create and arrange form that's something different. Here the question of utility or purpose necessarily arises-- even while doodling. I repeat, because our access to these answers is limited that doesn't make them go away. That's why such ancient art grabs us moreseo than the natural form of the cave in which it is found. We're interested in the human causes.

"I think it's an unanswerable question and it fatally undermines the characterization of all creative forms as communication"

Because it's objectively unanswerable doesn't mean it doesn't keep chugging along, just like Gombrich's denial of "Art" doesn't stop art-making and appreciation.

"There's a further question of whether it's useful to do so. If you think reality is socially determined it might suit you fine. I don't, and I see important differences between what we normally call communication and what goes on when people make or appreciate visual art"

Whoa, whoa, you're mischaracterizing me again. I don't think that "reality is socially determined". Where did I ever say that?

And elaborate on what you see to be these "important differences" between communication and the making and appreciation of art. That would make what you're getting at clearer.

"Too, it encourages an approach to art that favors interpretation, which is a valid activity, but a different activity than the detection of quality"

I realize that you've already tried to say that "awareness" is in fact objective (rather, panjective), but seriously, interpretation is required even for analyzing formal aspects of artwork. Trial & error, rather than surety is how we work and until you somehow locate an objective metric for quality, it's how we'll keep doing things.

Regarding what you said about genre, the differences are as undeniable as the similarities. Look at a broad category like "politics" and all that goes on within it. Sometimes I wish I call what someone like Ron Paul is doing anti-politics, but it's just not very truthful about the matter.

"I don't think art has a crowning achivement. I do see what it's good at"

I was wrong here. I would pluralize it. Art's highest achievements are tied, not to themselves, but to what they effect in others.

"but we're ultimately talking about the interaction of brute materials and biology"

I have never denied biology of materiality. What I deny are scary statements of determinism like this one. Is / ought, AGAIN!

Chris,

it is statements like the above that seem like "talking about QED" to me. But maybe it's just because I am on another planet! : )

352.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 4:17 PM

Ahab,

If you need clarification, ask for it.

"Additionally, though it may be a little more correct to say, "the experience of art is communicative", this's so vague it's useless; and so obvious it's redundant"

Generalizing something is difficult, there's no question. But I've been arguing from the start that your use of "visual quality" is equally vague and unhelpful. For the record, I still haven't seen any of it on my morning runs, either!

353.

Hovig

June 4, 2008, 4:23 PM

That's an interesting assertion: that making shapes and patterns are not techniques of abstraction. Go ahead and prove that.

Proofs are mathematical. About art I can only tell stories.

To abstract is to remove. In art I'd say it means to remove details that would otherwise render a shape or collections of shapes an illustration. Abstraction in art is the explicit and intentional removal (avoidance) of illustration.

I don't think it's a stretch to say humans have an extremely strong tendency for representation. (Our brains are pattern-recognition machines). This tendency must be actively and intentionally suppressed, at least at first. I don't think abstract art can be understood or appreciated without this type of training. (Olivia's baby-Greenberg paintings notwithstanding).

The Menil had an exhibition of Elsworth Kelly works some time back, including source materials. They showed for example an old newpaper clipping of a young man crossing a street, wearing dark pants and a white shirt, without jacket or tie. Kelly drew simple and clear boundaries around the pants and shirt, and worked the drawing until it became two solid forms: light atop and dark below. Kelly quite literally abstracted an illustration into a non-illustration.

I think abstract art started from a desire to suppress illustration as a conceptual gesture. There is a story of a Pollock painting which the buyer tried a few years back to return to the gallery because when he took it home and looked at it he could see human shapes in it. The dealer admitted it was an earlier work and was not fully abstract. Apparently another buyer liked this characteristic and bought it instead.

I think I read this anecdote in Art News a few years back. If true, it shows that Pollock also started from illustration and moved to suppress it. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with his early paint drawings of dancers which eventually morphed into his idiomatic famous works).

354.

J@simpleposie

June 4, 2008, 4:51 PM

Hovig, I'm charmed you linked to Olivia!

355.

Chris Rywalt

June 4, 2008, 4:53 PM

Opie sez:
Not "levels" Chris. Levels are up and down. just a lot of things going on at the same time.

"Levels" isn't the best word, it's true. I'm stuck for a better one right now. Spheres, maybe. Bailiwicks. Levels does seem to imply a hierarchy, and I don't want to do that.

But it's not so much just things going on at the same time I'm talking about -- it's that the things going on may interrelate (I can step on the anthill) but are all at different levels of magnification -- and I mean that metaphorically. That is, I'm standing there enjoying the breeze and ants are fighting a life-and-death struggle against each other. I'm oblivious to them and they are to me. But we occupy the same space.

Or to think about this a little differently: I was struck by a news item I read about a family of Iraqis who were gunned down at a bridge checkpoint by American soldiers. The soldiers didn't understand why the non-combatant family wouldn't stop when told by the soldiers. And that made me think, hey, all these people wanted to do was go across the bridge. Who knows how often they used to use that bridge?

That made me think about all the bridges I cross in my daily travels. Since I live in northeastern New Jersey, which is mostly marshland, I cross a lot of bridges. Most of the time I probably don't even realize they're bridges because in the map in my mind, it doesn't matter to me. My map covers what's of interest to me, and that's not usually a strategic interest.

But if an army were to invade and start fighting a war around here, they'd look at the bridges -- at my whole neighborhood -- in an entirely different way. Their map would be completely different from my map. Their map would be a strategic map. Their tanks wouldn't go meekly down the road and stop at traffic lights; they'd drive through backyards and over fences if necessary.

So in a way it's just interesting to me to imagine these overlapping ways of viewing the same space. That's what I was trying to get at. I can't remember now why I wanted to get at it, but there you go.

356.

Ben

June 4, 2008, 5:04 PM

Ahab pointed out that "communication is the process of transferring information from a sender to a receiver....", and, "communication is social interaction...."

The second statement is not of concern to us, the visual arts are not a social interaction between the artist and the viewer, in many cases the artist is dead.

So if we concern ourselves with the idea of transferring information:

Artist -->information-->Artwork-->information--> Viewer

The artist presents the artwork with the hopes it will elicit a shared response within the viewer, that the viewer will empathetically experience, think, see or feel, what the artist was thinking, seeing or feeling when they made the artwork. The artwork carries the evidence of what the artist's experiences during the artworks creation.

While there are many types of communication, what we are concerned with is shared understanding, one human sharing the experience of another. This requires an understanding that 'the self' and 'the other' are different, and that we attempt to understand 'the other' by internally recreating a shared experience.

When an artwork has been completed and left the artists hands, all we have is whatever information was encoded into the art object during its creation. On the most superficial level we can view the artwork and imagine the artist standing along side of us, seeing the exact same thing, we have a shared experience while viewing the same object.

How effective an artist is in creating this shared experience for the viewer becomes the only metric we have for comparing one artwork to another.

357.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 5:05 PM

Clem:

You're also speculating that they're only abstract "doodles". Just because you can see them that way doesn't mean you've given any proof to define their function as "abstract art".

One, I'm not trying to define its function as scare-quoted "abstract art." I'm saying that it is self-evidently visual abstraction. If you disagree, then I leave it to you to prove that the drawing is not any kind of visual abstraction. Two, just because you can see them that way doesn't mean you've given any proof to define its function as communication.

I don't think that an article that primarily focuses on the possibility of symbolism is using "abstract art" in an "art for art's sake" kind of way.

It doesn't have to be for art's sake to be abstract art.

I'd probably change that "are" to "can". My examples back this up.

But then they no longer assert that representation supercedes abstraction somehow, and that suits me just fine.

I don't think that "reality is socially determined".

Me neither.

And elaborate on what you see to be these "important differences" between communication and the making and appreciation of art. That would make what you're getting at clearer.

I have never had a sense of who I make art for. For me, it's like singing in the car with the windows rolled up - I'm just doing it. Calling this "communication" sounds wrong to me.

...interpretation is required even for analyzing formal aspects of artwork. Trial & error, rather than surety is how we work and until you somehow locate an objective metric for quality, it's how we'll keep doing things.

Apparently analysis and the detection of quality are the same thing for you. They're not. This is the kind of thing that made me want to make sure that you have visual experiences. (Which I think you do, but as far as I can tell, you live in your head and don't have easy access to responses occuring at or below your neck. That's not a judgment, but it does make me wonder about the depth of your art experience.)

I have never denied biology of materiality. What I deny are scary statements of determinism like this one ["but we're ultimately talking about the interaction of brute materials and biology"]. Is / ought, AGAIN!

Then you also won't like this one: I realize you're more comfortable with the notion that art, or maybe seeing, ties into emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations. But this experience, one of exchange, is communication. Wait, that one was yours! Are scary statements of determinism that lead to communication instead of biology okay?

Hovig:

Olivia is good times.

If true, it shows that Pollock also started from illustration and moved to suppress it.

This is verifiably true - his teacher was Thomas Hart Benton. I don't think that says anything about humanity in general. I do think we have a strong picture-making drive, but we're also hard-wired for pattern recognition. I can easily see an early human drawing a line, and then drawing a line perpendicular to it, just for the hell of it, and thinking, "Huh." As I mentioned already, I'm not sure either representation or abstraction coming first in human development would prove anything.

358.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 5:16 PM

When an artwork has been completed and left the artists hands, all we have is whatever information was encoded into the art object during its creation. On the most superficial level we can view the artwork and imagine the artist standing along side of us, seeing the exact same thing, we have a shared experience while viewing the same object.

This is okay, but there's not just information encoded there - quality itself is encoded into the object. The landscape inspires you to make a painting of it, let's say. Something about the quality of the landscape makes you want to manipulate colored mud to capture what was good about the landscape. The amazing thing about art is that it can succeed in doing this, just like writing can capture ideas. But at this point are we still talking about communication? I'm not so sure. Information is going across, but is that the point?

359.

Ben

June 4, 2008, 6:09 PM

I would characterize what you are calling 'quality,' as a measure of how effectively information is encoded into an artwork. How effective this information is at eliciting a shared response within the viewer.

A key element here is the idea of 'shared response.' We must assume that the artist, feeling passionate about some vision, is trying to share this experience with the future viewer. The old expression, "while many are called, few are chosen" fits well here. Many artists may have passionate visions but lack the ability to effectively encode these experiences into an artwork. If we experience two artworks, one great artwork and one so-so artwork, the way we make judgments is through our experience of the artwork, how effectively we are able to empathetically share the experience of the artist.

What is being described as 'quality' is only a measure of how effective the information is encoded into the artwork. Please don't trip up over the word 'information,' in our case it has nothing necessarily to do with language, but it is concerned with all the various decisions of ordering form or content necessary to articulate the artists vision. For example, 'bad drawing' is generally a less effective way of encoding information, but not always.

Quality is a measure and not something which can be directly encoded into an artwork. It is a byproduct of the encoding process, the process of creation. The 'information' in an artwork is essentially the stimulus for the viewer which enables them to have an experience with the artwork.

What make artworks great is their ability to engender in the viewer a strong experience which 'is like' or shared with the original experience the artist had. It is not the same as sharing a beautiful sunset with your partner. In this case the empathetic experience is one of sharing your partners response to the sunset. If the two of you stand in front of a Titian and have a wonderful artistic experience together, this is like the sunset, the two of you are also empathetically sharing an exterior experience.

However, if you have a wonderful experience in front of a Titian by yourself, just you and the painting, to the degree you can ignore the outside world, you are having a shared experience with Titian. It is as if he is standing at your side and you are sharing the painting together.

This is a fundamental human experience, the source of all art.

360.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 6:20 PM

You're welcome here any time, Ben.

Quality is a measure and not something which can be directly encoded into an artwork. It is a byproduct of the encoding process, the process of creation. The 'information' in an artwork is essentially the stimulus for the viewer which enables them to have an experience with the artwork.

I admit to having an idea about this that is not widely shared; even Opie has a problem with it. Your version of the transaction is consistent and sound, and since it addresses both the information and the delivery of the information, I can go along with the majority of it. But I don't think quality is a measure. I think quality is something that engenders a pleasurable response in the viewer. We can then compare responses, measuring them in a way. It works like this because quality itself has been encoded into the object. That shared experience you mention is big part of how it gets there.

361.

Ben

June 4, 2008, 7:17 PM

Thank you.

You say that you "think quality is something that engenders a pleasurable response in the viewer. This suggests that quality is information and therefore capable of acting as a stimulus to the viewer.

The problem is that the physical bits of information in an artwork, the paint marks, or color, or drawing all exist in relationship to one another. These relationships are also information, worse the relationships between relationship groups are also information, and in the end it becomes so complex that even if 'quality' was information, in an objective sense, it would only be one bit among thousands.

If you view 'quality' as a measure of how effective this information is encoded into the artwork it becomes a characteristic which is associated with the artwork that indicates how effectively it engenders the shared response in the viewer. 'Quality' results from the effective ordering of information through an artworks internal relationships. There isn't any need to 'add a dash of quality' to achieve the artists ends, just 'moving that part a little to the left,' might do it.

The aspects of an artwork which, make it effective in eliciting a positive response in the viewer, are difficult to precisely define. The complex internal relationships within an artwork affect whether or not any aspect, bit of information or relationship, can be precisely defined and quantified in terms of its effectiveness in eliciting a response which can then be transfered to another artwork with the same effectiveness.

I think when we see it occur in one artwork we may want to qualify it as 'quality' and in the particular case this may be as true as anything else. However there is no way we could transfer it to another artwork, the quality is a result of the totality of the information and relationships encoded into an artwork and therefore not transferrable.

When we have a shared experience with an artwork, a pleasurable response, it is a response to the stimulus presented to us by the artwork, the paint textures, the color, the drawing, and anything else which we perceive in its presence. Our sense of its 'quality' is a judgment made after our initial experience, it is our awareness of how effective the artist was in making us experience the artwork in the same way he is experienced it.

362.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 7:58 PM

We're almost saying the same thing - what you've been calling "information," I've been calling "traits." You're saying that quality is the measure of the effectiveness of the arrangement of the information, which is, itself, information. (I hope I did that justice.) I've been saying that quality is the effective arrangement of traits. I think our only substantial difference here is where quality is taking place.

You may not have seen the essay referred to above as the panjective essay. In it I assert that the subjective world doesn't exist. Have a look at that, if you don't mind, and let me know what you think of it.

363.

opie

June 4, 2008, 8:49 PM

I haven't got time to read & respond to all this but "shared experience" is not the right description. the experience I have making a picture is a lot like my colleagues experience because we talk about it. it is not an experience it is a process and it is a complex one.

the experience of looking at a good work of art is immediate and completely different from making a work of art.

The matter of "encoded information" is not off the mark but needs to be more carefully expressed - later sometime.

Anyway, Ben, good to hear from someone new who seems to make sense.

364.

opie

June 4, 2008, 8:53 PM

PS shorter is better. This kind of thing really needs to be discussed point by point, with very careful and constant checking with actual experiuence.

365.

Ben

June 4, 2008, 8:58 PM

I can see the connection between my use of the term 'information' and your use of the term 'traits.' I think 'information' has a broader scope but in the current context either would suffice.

Quality as a measure of how effectively information is encoded into an artwork could indeed be viewed as information itself. I would agree that where we differ on this point is "where quality is taking place."

The only way we can know how effectively an artwork is at eliciting a positive experience, what I called the 'shared experience,' is by in fact experiencing the artwork. For the artist, the experience of creating the artwork is total. While the artist may both desire and attempt elevate their own experience of the artwork to the highest degree possible, they can never have the same shared experience as the one outside, the viewer. For the artist, the affirmation of their perception of 'quality,' the effectiveness of their artwork to elicit a shared experience in the viewer, comes after the fact or is built upon knowledge from past history.

For the viewer, this event occurs after the artwork is created, the viewer responds favorably or not. In both cases, for the artist and the viewer, the perception of quality, as a measure of the artworks effectiveness in eliciting a positive response, occurs after the fact of the artworks creation.

Therefore, quality cannot be an 'trait' which is imbedded in the art object. This does not say that quality does not exist, only that it is something which we are aware of only after experiencing an artwork.

366.

Ben

June 4, 2008, 9:39 PM

I was grasping for terms with my use of 'shared experience.' First I in no way meant to imply that the experience of making an artwork and the experiencing of a completed artwork were equivalent, they are obviously not.

However what I was trying to infer was that in the process of experiencing an artwork, the viewer can have an empathetic connection with the artist through the artwork. Great artworks provide us with more than just visual stimulus, for if that was all we needed, we could just go outside and watch the sunset. Great artworks provide us with a sense of communion with our fellow man, by affording us the ability for an empathetic connection, both with the artist and with our fellow man. When we view the Sistine Chapel, we reach out our hand, as the hand of God, as the hand of God that Michelangelo saw and painted, we empathetically mirror what we see.

Panjective was a long read this late at night, however I have these thoughts. It appears that there an the objective world of things we bump into. Living things in the objective world have some internal subjective representation of it, which suits their purposes. Among humans, no two humans perceives the objective world exactly like the other. Individual humans have an internal representation of the objective world which they accept as 'real' along with the knowledge that it probably is not. Humans have a collective agreement about the objective world, a shared experience of it, even if it is not accurate. But I need to think about this some more.

367.

Clem

June 4, 2008, 9:49 PM

"Then you also won't like this one: I realize you're more comfortable with the notion that art, or maybe seeing, ties into emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations. But this experience, one of exchange, is communication. Wait, that one was yours! Are scary statements of determinism that lead to communication instead of biology okay?"

Communication is open-ended, not only because it involves interpretation and recognition (things that can't be guaranteed), but that as an overall category it continues to grow and change. The "facts" of biology and physics (distinct from what we do with our biology, and how we move through the material world) don't. Basing things like ethics, politics, and aesthetic judgments on these is deterministic, and as I said a case of is/ought-ism. Just because they enable culture to take place, doesn't mean that they become the basis for judging said culture.

Even though communication is increasingly manifested everywhere in contemporary societies its outcomes aren't inevitable. I'm not so interested in cases of isolation, like feral children, as I am in the different levels of communication that you see both throughout history and within our world today. Pictograms, written language, and even more complicated systems of verbal communication certainly didn't exist for our biologically related ancestors. My earlier example of how we learn to watch TV is a more contemporary example. It's pretty easy to see how literacies and fluencies in different types of communication vary drastically, showing much more diversity and contingency than our individual biology. Maybe the best proof of communication's open-endedness is that we are able to create new forms of communication, new languages, new modes of expression. Although we are increasingly able to modify and influence our own biology and physical environment, we are not able to change those "facts" which underly biology and physics themselves.

I realize that at the heart of a lot of our disagreements is the distinction between nature and culture. I'm going to stick with the key difference that the latter is characterized by its contingency in a way that the first isn't. So when I talk about social facts, social construction, and even degrees of social determinism, know that they're a different beast from what you are proposing.

Your "panjective" is merely a recycling of the old doctrine of atomism, whose biggest traditional criticism has basically been, why would we want to live like that? I don't think that we should fool ourselves about what factors contribute to our individual judgments, but there is an aspect of freedom in choosing to love something, in opening oneself up to aesthetic experience. That's why no one can give a definitive account of quality, no one can guarantee aesthetic impact or pleasure.

"I have never had a sense of who I make art for. For me, it's like singing in the car with the windows rolled up - I'm just doing it. Calling this "communication" sounds wrong to me"

I'm genuinely interested in this and hope you'll answer some questions which may well seem very personal.

What do you do with the art that you make Franklin? And can you say why?

Do you consider yourself an audience of sorts?

In your artistic statement you conclude with the following:

"I'm an essentialist who believes in the inherent worth of the activity of painting: the confluence of materials, perceptions, and inner life"

What do these last two have to do with your work as an artist? I want to rush to conclude that they are embodies and expressed in your work-- and to me seems like communication. But of course it's your explanation of this statement that is important!

(And I even tried to tone down the scare quotes on the last half of this entry...)

368.

Franklin

June 4, 2008, 10:53 PM

Just because they enable culture to take place, doesn't mean that they become the basis for judging said culture.

You could plug communication into this and come up with with an equally defensible statement. With all due respect, #367 doesn't amount to anything. You could as easily argue for the open-endedness of biology (evolution is a product of random mutation, and look at all the diversity it generates) and the determinism of communication (it doesn't work without predecided agreements regarding terms, and unexpected replies get interpreted as noise). You haven't made a case for what you're saying - you've just expressed a preference for it because you think of openness as good and limits, narrowness, and barriers as bad. Also that connecting aesthetics to biology is deterministic and therefore bad. There are at least three problems with this: creative limits can be highly enabling to art, biological limits are very much a part of our existence, and nature doesn't give a damn what you or I prefer. I'm trying to account for how quality works in the way that it does, not generate expressive possibilities for people.

Your "panjective" is merely a recycling of the old doctrine of atomism...

Atomism addresses an entirely different problem.

What do you do with the art that you make Franklin? And can you say why?

I keep the good stuff because it pleases me. I'll show it if someone lets me because exhibiting is its own kind of pleasure.

Do you consider yourself an audience of sorts?

About as much as when I sing in the car. Not really.

What do these last two have to do with your work as an artist?

I wish I could say that any better than I did. Materials, perceptions, and inner life come together as art.

369.

Chris Rywalt

June 5, 2008, 4:11 AM

I sing in the car a lot. I was in Glee Club for years and years and I miss it. One of the things I miss is the sheer vocal exercise, the improving and improving. I've been using the car for that instead. It's not as good, but it'll do, I guess. When I sing in the car, I'm less interested as an audience per se than I am as a participant -- I want to hit the notes properly, I want to hear how I sound, I want to get better, and mostly I want to feel my singing.

Painting is kind of like that, actually. Part of what I enjoy about it are the actual, physical things I'm doing. I like, for example, putting paint down. I like how it feels.

I think painting is a tactile experience for a lot of artists.

370.

opie

June 5, 2008, 6:35 AM

My vision for this blog - and I guess that Franklin's is similar - is a group of intelligent, knowledgeable people responding to interesting posts, talking about art they like and, perhaps most interestingly, working over some of the "think" areas of understanding art.

The problem with the latter activity is that for whatever reason it seems that most people who talk about art can't think very clearly about art. Franklin has spent most of his time lately minutely imposing clarity on chaos but it is like doing half a jigsaw puzzle only to have someone smash it apart all over again. He does it because, as he says, it keeps him sharp. But it's not building, it's fixing, and it can't go anywhere.

Anyway, it would be nice to get a few more people on board who have a real interest in working on these problems, and see if we can actually come up with some real conclusions.

371.

Jack

June 5, 2008, 6:46 AM

Franklin, Don Quijote is just fine, as long as the text is all determined by Cervantes, but when at least half of it is being written by an unaccountably smug halfwit, it degenerates drastically. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Give it up. It's gone beyond a waste of time, despite the admittedly impressive bandwidth (meaningless though much of it is).

372.

MC

June 5, 2008, 6:58 AM

Gosh, I'd love to join in, but I'm drinkin' pints in Galway at the moment, and, as Clem rightly pointed out, Opie (and others) contributions here haven't been Herculean... But they have definitely been Sisyphean (although, instead of man v. boulder, it's more like Dung Beetle v. little piece of shit).

Jack was right, as usual, when he pegged Clem's "communications" here as something less than ethical, rolling over here as she did from our blog, after being stung by some criticisms of Ahab's and mine. Our criticisms were made quite openly, though, but rather than respond in kind, well, we see what's happened. It's sickening, but luckily, I have a sick sense of humour.

Incidentally, speaking of "communication", how about diseases? They're "communication" too, right? I mean, if:

Artist -->information-->Artwork-->information--> Viewer

works, doesnt:

Sneezer -->information--->Doorknob-->information---> Cold-catcher

Work just as well, and just as relevantly?

Of course, if it were disease we were talking about, someone as shamelessly incompetent and unqualified as Clem evidently is would have been laughed off as the quack she is long ago...

(note: this in no way violates any guidelines against addressing the writer, as "Clem" is a fictional character, created by its writer, and as such, is open to 'personal' critique, in a way that the rest of us are not... Ah, the wages of anonymity...)

373.

opie

June 5, 2008, 7:38 AM

Ben:

It is an "empathetic connection" of a sort (I think it best to not argue a lot about what to call it, commmunication, quality, whatever) but this in turn may be misleading because it rests the effect of art on some sort of "sharing". This is warm and fuzzy but misses the mark.

The artist makes something to have an effect. We have a hard time specifying this effect but we all seem to agree that we and our culture take it pretty seriously. however, we have a very hard time specifying what or why.

To get at "why" we have to be very, very careful to always start with and refer back to the actual process of making and comprehending art. That's why I immediately had to point out that "shared experience" is not what is happening, not the actual process.

We must be particularly careful not to waste time with semantics, like worrying over whether art is "communication" or not. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that we agree what words mean. It is important to develop useful terminology, but if we don't agree we shouldn't use the word.

This can be an irritating, difficult process but it can be worth it. No one has ever gotten very fasr figuring this art thing out but I think progeress can be made, and it would be fun to do it here.

374.

opie

June 5, 2008, 7:41 AM

"...drinkin' pints in Galway..."

I'm drinkin' diet Coke in my office.

UNFAIR!

375.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 9:41 AM

Opie,

You've repeatedly questioned my intelligence and intentions in posting here. If you want to focus on my wordiness and editing , and ignore the amount of confusion and speculation that your and Franklin's arguments have caused, then you're not recognizing your own biases or how you come across to those who don't agree with your position. And I'm not even going to touch on what amounts to pollution by posters like Jack and MC.

You keep saying keep it short, be specific with your wording. I've tried to do both and will continue, but responding to anyone's complicated position (see the famous Foucault/Chomsky debate) isn't pretty, let alone when a gang is trying to uphold one with which you strongly disagree.

Franklin,

"You could as easily argue for the open-endedness of biology"

Here at the beginning of our conversation you wanted to say that there actually isn't all that much diversity in terms of biological processes such as sight, and that there really hadn't been much evolutionary change, and now the facts that underly nature are one's of contingency? Like I said, particular biologies do change, but not the facts that underly these differences.

"You could as easily argue for the... determinism of communication (it doesn't work without predecided agreements regarding terms, and unexpected replies get interpreted as noise)"

Something that requires agreement is not deterministic. For example, we don't need to agree on the physics of color in order for them to be validated. Now whether we're talking about linguistic or non-linguistic communication, we do require a measure of agreement precisely because signs are arbitrary. The Purple/Blue example with some cultures is a perfect example of this. It does not change the physical properties of these colors, but shows how visual cognition is tied up with how we divide and label these properties. We need to consciously share them, and that's how we impact them, unlike say the properties themselves.

It would be deterministic if I had said, we're ultimately talking about the interaction of brute materials and socialization. But that's not what I've said.

"Also that connecting aesthetics to biology is deterministic and therefore bad. There are at least three problems with this: creative limits can be highly enabling to art, biological limits are very much a part of our existence, and nature doesn't give a damn what you or I prefer".

How many different ways can I say that biology is a big part of aesthetic experience? Our difference is that I think you need to consider how that biology is socialized.

I definitely agree that limits are enabling. But the source of these limits (could one say structure?) is another thing altogether. Biological limits are indeed part of our existence. But so are socialized limits, which are much more subject to change. The trouble is that we're forever mistaking the two. I don't really know what you're getting at with nature not giving a damn.

Your comments about making art were helpful and insightful. I really hate challenging someone on how they themselves their craft and art. But I just want to throw one thing out. No one is ever making art in a bubble (and I don't think you're really trying to argue this), it is always part of a tradition. And that tradition has always included an audience and a social use for the works it produces. I think that's what you're missing, or minimizing, in how art comes together.

MC,

You actually bring up a bit of a valid point alongside your bluster. I've been worrying about Franklin's criticism of communication as too broad of a thing. Certainly, there is communication throughout nature. The particular type of communication that takes place in art does need to be differentiated. Do you guys have any thoughts on what this might be? How does artistic expression differ from other forms of human communication? Are there any examples of artistic expression in nature?

376.

Chris Rywalt

June 5, 2008, 9:48 AM

Have we decided Clem is a she? That's interesting.

MC, there are those who'd say that a virus is merely information. Encoded in a protein which gets itself into your cells and has them make copies of itself. So your disease as information idea isn't completely off the mark.

But, come on, you're mixing different definitions of information.

As far as pints in Galway or Diet Cokes in the office, I'm drinking bottled water in my son's bedroom right now. I think my life sucks most of all! I win!

377.

opie

June 5, 2008, 9:56 AM

OK Chris, you win.

Clem if you have a position state it succinctly or stop taking up so much space.

378.

Jack

June 5, 2008, 10:59 AM

MC, glad to hear from you (though frankly, given what we've been enduring lately, almost anything is a relief at this point). Nice of you to take time away from massive beer consumption at some Irish pub or other (trust me, you're spending your time much better than we've been doing here).

Furthermore, you raise a most intriguing prospect, which had been hinted at before by either you or Ahab or both, but I'd failed to pick up on it. I mean, of course, that Clemson, or perhaps more appropriately Clementine, may be a non-male human. And here I was all torn up over Clemson being a disgrace to my gender, which already has a bad enough rep as it is. Besides, now we may have something to show Oriane when she complains this place is too male.

Anyhow, do tell. Is it possible, I wonder, that we're dealing with one Anne Whitelaw, of the Art Gallery of Alberta, who curated its recent show "Seeing Through Modernism," complete with reportedly ridiculous wall texts? The same one who evidently failed to impress Karen Wilkin when the latter spoke in Edmonton in connection with that show? The one whose flashy new gallery building, which one could easily presume to be the apple of her eye, was essentially panned by Wilkin and called a wasted opportunity? The one no doubt you and Ahab have pilloried repeatedly on your Edmonton-based blog, Studiosavant?

Or could it be one of Whitelaw's minions, I mean associates or acolytes? Could it conceivably be local art writer Amy Fung, who reviewed said show, and who MC theorized might have an internal head injury?

This is all very intriguing, and far, FAR more interesting than the dreck we've been (and are still being) deluged with. Fascinating stuff, at least relatively speaking.

379.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 11:08 AM

I honor of Opie, I'll keep this short, if not sweet.

Paranoid, much?

"Visual quality is the only inherent function of art"

No.

380.

Franklin

June 5, 2008, 11:16 AM

Clem, again, the whole angle of communication being open-ended and biology being deterministic can be argued oppositely on the same terms you're using, and it doesn't address how quality actually operates. Aesthetic quality may very well be biologically determined. I tend to think that the general features of the response are, and the individual features are not. There is very little choice involved - you don't choose to like things. Free will is so important to human experience because we have so little of it. You basically have a choice about where to put your awareness at any given moment, and your response to the content of that awareness puts the next thing into your awareness. If you're not paying attention, and no one is paying attention all the time, you're an automaton. That's free will for the human race in its entirety. But I guess this is a separate discussion.

381.

Jack

June 5, 2008, 11:28 AM

Paranoia implies fear, anxiety and feeling persecuted, which is not relevant in this context. What is all too relevant, however, is being fed up with incessant drivel from an essentially unknown source, and attempting to deal with it in as diverting a way as possible. What is considered diverting, of course, will vary, but, as always, what I do here is not contingent on universal approval.

382.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 11:36 AM

"it doesn't address how quality actually operates"

Quality doesn't operate, it is perceived. Communication is an operation.

383.

opie

June 5, 2008, 11:38 AM

Brevity should be accompanied by intelligibility, Clem

384.

Franklin

June 5, 2008, 11:39 AM

I apologize, slightly, for the word choice.

385.

opie

June 5, 2008, 11:42 AM

Clem you are bickering over terminology without clarifying it.

386.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 11:47 AM

Well that's funny, because this whole time I've been trying to get you guys to add some intelligibility to the term "visual quality" that you keep throwing around.

Intelligible: "Capable of being understood: an intelligible set of directions"

387.

roy

June 5, 2008, 12:47 PM

The Q word has its hang-ups. Opie has touched on this here a few times and also on the Panjective thread. He substitutes good or goodness or a sense of it thereof. It works for me.

In response to 368, I point to the thing. Its quality is there and you see it. It is obvious. The thing of it that is most obvious is that it's there in the thing. Not elsewhere. Maybe Clem just hasn't seen that much of the art that contributors here care about to be able to negotiate this dialogue properly. This thread is a mess people. I am not the one with the sophist creds or the art history creds or even the experience creds, but jeezez. How many ways can this all be restated?!!! Clem, MC started calling you Clembot, and now i think for good reason. Time for some upgrades, Clembot. Quality or goodness still seems like an idea, not an experience for Clembot. Hang on a sec, I got it...Clem's a Cylon!! Cylons must have a taste for crow.

I just don't get all the loopy talk about criteria and content and god knows what else. It is so distinct and separate from the experience of making and looking at the things that new modernism represents. Scarcely any of this this thread is intelligible.

388.

roy

June 5, 2008, 12:48 PM

that's 386 not 368

389.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 1:47 PM

Quality is not self-evident. Otherwise you guys would have been falling all over yourselves about the Jeff Wall work that I pointed to!

390.

MC

June 5, 2008, 3:34 PM

Hi Jack... glad to see I can scold you for wasting YOUR time, for a change.

Many other commenters have been referring to 'Clem' as 'he', whereas I had been trying to use the gender-neutral 'they' for a while, but, what can I say, the 'she' just slipped out (must be the Bushmills). No reason why 'Clem' should be supposed to be 'Clemson' any more than 'Clementine', as far as I can see. What's the pronoun for a hermaphrodite, anyway?

By the way, Anne Whitelaw is not a regular employee of the AGA, but rather was invited to guest curate a show for them (as was I, once upon a time), as she is an Art History instructor at the UofA, although, as noted on Studiosavant, she's been thoroughly exposed as a fraud, a know-nothing, floundering in the world of art, almost as ridiculous as this "Clem" character, but I suppose, perhaps not quite.

As for acolytes, I can't imagine she has any, except for perhaps a few deluded young Grad students... A friend of mine actually had a course with her, though, and whoa, the tales my friend could tell me about being in that class... yowza! And as for colleagues, well, they were rightly demolishing her dubious credibility right alongside Wilkin et al, so Whitelaw is hardly what you'd call someone with a following.

As for Amy Fung, well, I don't recommend it, Jack, but if you were to read her writing, you'd find so many malapropisms and digressions into juvenalia that you would be hard pressed to ever mistake her for an employed academic of any sort at all (despite the bar being set awful low, in any event). She's a neophyte writer for a weekly advertiser, and a bad one at that: she wouldn't be capable of the concocting the pretentious "pollution" that Clem so unremittingly expectorates here.

And anyway, Franklin says "no outing"....

Clem never did come out to Ahab's very well attended recent (and entirely sold-out?) solo show, and her understanding of sculpture in general is dismal, by her own admission, so her opinions, criticisms, etc. on same are worth slightly less than a wet fart... I mean, who (that expects to be taken as knowledgeable about art) seriously says "I don't like steel sculpture"? Only a BUFFOON! That's like saying "I don't like oil painting"... It doesn't work that way! A viewer has to take one piece at a time (well, if you're an honest viewer, anyway, which, as we've established quite exhaustively, Clem is not).

391.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 4:00 PM

MC,

I'm continuously in awe of your pettiness. For God's sake!

392.

MC

June 5, 2008, 4:12 PM

That's "anonymous" awe, I suppose... sorry, such awe, as you might say, is "blogworthy, at best"...

393.

Chris Rywalt

June 5, 2008, 4:50 PM

I had a wet fart the other day. It was very unpleasant.

394.

roy

June 5, 2008, 5:14 PM

Clem sez: Quality is not self-evident. Otherwise you guys would have been falling all over yourselves about the Jeff Wall work that I pointed to!

But it is self-evident!!! And you don't see it, I guess. That's where, as my hard drinking colleague from Northern Ontario used to say, this conversation promptly hits the ditch.

Jeff Wall is kinda interesting. But still mediocre. His work has a faux density. Lots of evidence of choices, but not enough goodness.

395.

Clem

June 5, 2008, 5:24 PM

Sorry Roy, you're just not seeing it!

I've already mentioned Gombrich in this entry, but wanted to share this quote from a (1996?) interview of his that I was reading. The capitalization or misspelling weren't my doing. It's from the Gombrich Archive.

"DC: What do you think about the interest of contemporary artists in the larger realm of cultural studies?

I DO THINK I HAVE BEEN ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO TRIED TO GET AWAY FROM A PURELY AESTHETIC OR FORMALISTIC APPRECTIATION OF THE IMAGE, AND TO TREAT WHAT I CALLED THE LINGUISTICS OF THE VISUAL IMAGE, THE POETICS OF THE VISUAL IMAGES"

Earlier in the same interview he mentions not really having read any of Greenberg's writing. Does anyone know what Greenberg had to say of him?

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